Brits and Germans: Give us more power over EU

A majority of Germans and Brits want a greater role for their national parliaments in EU decision-making, a poll released on Wednesday suggested. It comes ahead of EU talks between Angela Merkel and David Cameron in London.

Brits and Germans: Give us more power over EU
Merkel and Cameron will meet in London on Thursday where the UK leader will attempt to get the Chancellor's backing for EU reform. Photo: DPA

The YouGov poll for think-tank Open Europe Berlin, which campaigns for EU reform, Germans and Brits wanted national control rather than EU control in key policy areas including migrants’ access to benefits, employment laws, regional development subsidies, and police and criminal justice laws.

But in trade and energy policy, Germans wanted the EU to take the lead. The majority of Britons and Germans also thought the single market offered by the EU was beneficial.

Director of Open Europe Berlin Michael Wohlgemuth said: “Even though Britons are traditionally more eurosceptic than Germans, public opinion in Germany is increasingly getting closer to British views.

“Eurosceptics are only a minority in Germany. The majority of Germans are, however, critical of the EU in some key policy areas.”

The YouGov poll found 73 percent of Britons and 58 percent of Germans thought that either every country’s national parliament or a group of national parliaments should be able to block proposed new EU laws.

Only eight percent of Britons and 21 percent of Germans thought the European Parliament, rather than national parliaments, should have the right to block new EU laws.

Open Europe’s Research Director Stephen Booth said the poll was an “encouraging basis” for David Cameron’s bid to secure Merkel’s support for a reformed EU.

“If he is to make this a reality, he must now set out a series of proposals for reform that can be road tested with leaders and electorates across Europe,” Booth said.

“It is clear that Britons and Germans agree that the European Parliament is not the answer to the EU’s democratic deficit. National parliaments remain the ultimate source of democratic legitimacy and accountability and must therefore be given a greater say in the EU decision making process.”

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Merkel will visit the UK on Thursday where she has been given the rare honour of speaking before both Houses of Parliament. She will also have tea with the Queen.

It is being seen as an attempt by Prime Minister David Cameron to get Merkel’s support for his bid to claw back certain powers from Europe.

But observers are sceptical that Merkel will give in to Cameron's demands for reform.

"I think her hands are very, very tied by her 'grand coalition' in Berlin," Simon Hix, professor of European politics at the London School of Economics, told AFP.

How do Germans view the EU?

The YouGov poll also found Germans were divided on the future development of the EU.

Thirty-eight percent said they would like a more integrated Europe with more decisions taken at the European level, while 31 percent say they’d like a less integrated Europe.

Just nine percent favour complete German withdrawal.

The study also found little support in both countries for EU budget increases with only seven percent in the UK and 12 percent in Germany in favour of a rise in spending.

Of the EU’s three flagship projects – the single market, enlargement and the euro – the single market was considered to be beneficial by the biggest share of voters in both countries.

In Britain, 52 percent of voters said the single market was an advantage compared to 74 percent of Germans.

The study added: “The shared British and German view that the single market is beneficial but that more policies should be decided nationally rather than at the EU level suggests an appetite in both countries for a slimmed down, more trade focused EU.”

The poll was conducted from February 19th to 21st among 1,065 Germans and 2,141 British adults.

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