UK willing to support EU in a crisis ‒ but few would reciprocate! Data exposes stingy bloc

Brexit: Treasury chief calls EU exit a 'big success'

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Today marks two years since the UK left the European Union. While the nation is forging a new path in a post-Brexit world, an alarming study gives insight into who the UK might count as a friend in a crisis.

The study, undertaken by YouGov in April 2020, surveying more than 21,000 people across 14 European countries, shows the stark reality of British support amongst EU nations post-Brexit. 

The poll asked: “Who would EU countries be willing to help in a major crisis?”, and asked those polled to “imagine a country suffered some kind of major crisis and was looking for help from others”. 

They were asked about 34 countries, both in Europe and outside of Europe.

A net willingness was calculated for each country and then ranked.

For example, in Spain the percentage of people willing to help Italy is 49 points higher than the percentage that would be unwilling to help, giving them a net score of +49.

Overall, Britons voted that they would help all the countries listed except Japan and Colombia, for which they had a net willingness of -3 and -6 respectively.

However, across almost all 13 other countries polled, people were largely unwilling to offer financial aid to the UK in the event of a catastrophe.

Poland, Denmark, Romania and Sweden emerge as the only nations with a population who believes the UK would deserve some help, with the least support coming from Finland, followed by France. 

The UK is tied in unpopularity with Tunisia, and above only Colombia in support. 

Other nations with a negative overall willingness include Vietnam, India and Japan. 

The nation with the highest overall average of support from the EU is Italy, followed by Spain and Portugal. 

However, it should be noted this poll was conducted in the early stages of the pandemic when Italy was being particularly hard hit by Covid and little was known about the virus, which is likely to explain the robust support for that nation.

It doesn’t, however, explain why the UK faces such an alarming lack of support from its closest neighbours. 

Finland, with a -30 willingness to support the UK, enjoys a +25 ranking in reciprocation, showing the UK would be willing to offer its harshest critics support if needed. 

Against Germany, with a -13 willingness to help Britain, the UK has a +15 willingness to support the EU’s economic powerhouse. 

And against France, in many senses the UK’s closest EU neighbour, the UK has a depressing -25 willingness, while Britain has a +10 willingness to help in return. 

Writing on the findings, the YouGov head of data journalism, Matthew Smith, said: “These results…demonstrate quite how far the UK has alienated its European neighbours.

“This is not simply the case that the UK is a rich country and so people won’t donate on the basis that the UK can afford to look after itself: people are far more willing to provide financial assistance to the other top wealthy European countries Germany and France.”

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This week, the UK will again make headlines around the bloc as its new Brexit Freedoms Bill is published. 

The Bill will seek to overhaul “outdated” EU laws copied over into UK systems after Brexit.

The UK copied over the laws to smooth its exit from the EU on January 31, 2020, and kept them during a transition period that ended in January 2021.

Since September, the Government has been reviewing which of these it wants to keep in place, ditch or amend.

Downing Street has said the Brexit Freedoms Bill will cut £1bn of red tape for businesses by changing how Parliament can amend or remove thousands of EU regulations that remain in force in the UK. 

Boris Johnson said the bill would “unleash the benefits of Brexit”, but criticism is already streaming in from devolved nations. 

A source, quoted by the BBC, said Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish ministers believe the plans undermine the devolution settlement.

They added that a meeting between the Attorney General Suella Braverman and devolved ministers on Saturday was “last-minute, fractious, and cack-handed”.

The Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution Angus Robertson said: “This makes a mockery of the UK Government’s recent commitment to reset relationships with the devolved governments.”

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