Poll shows in-out vote over Europe to be wide open

David Cameron
David Cameron
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Fewer than a third of voters have firmly made up their minds whether to back Britain’s continued membership of the European Union, according to a poll published 40 years after the last referendum on the issue.

Seven out of 10 remain open to persuasion by the time of the vote, which the Conservative Party’s general election manifesto promised will take place by 2017, a survey of almost 4,000 people for thinktank British Future found.

But it suggested that some of the most passionate advocates of the In and Out causes might actually put off more people than they persuade.

Almost six out of 10 of those questioned by pollsters Survation said they distrusted europhile former prime minister Tony Blair when he speaks about the EU, while 56 per cent said they did not trust Ukip leader Nigel Farage on the issue. Just 28 per cent said they trusted Mr Blair and 36 per cent Mr Farage on the issue.

In 1975 it was a Labour prime minister - Harold Wilson - meeting a manifesto promise to let the public decide whether to remain a part of what was then the European Economic Community, into which Edward Heath had led the country two years previously.

Like David Cameron four decades on, he set out to renegotiate the terms of membership to persuade voters to back “in” - which eventually prevailed comfortably by just over 67 per cent.

British Future director Sunder Katwala said the poll suggested that the In and Out campaigns should be wary of giving a prominent role to those keenest to lead them.

Mr Farage, in particular, “appeals to existing supporters but repels the majority of British citizens who remain undecided about Britain’s place in Europe”, said the thinktank.

Mr Katwala said: “The EU referendum is wide open. With seven out of 10 people wanting to hear more before they make up their minds - the ‘Don’t Knows’ and the ‘Leaners’ will decide whether Britain stays in Europe.

“Either side could win this referendum.”