Geographies in Depth

This is what European countries think about Brexit

The St George's Cross, European Union and Union flags fly outside a hotel in London, Britain, December 17, 2015. European Union leaders could clinch a deal with British Prime Minister David Cameron in February to prevent the bloc's second largest economy leaving, European Council President Donald Tusk said on Thursday. Cameron is seeking to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the bloc it joined in 1973 ahead of a referendum on membership to be held by the end of 2017. Some EU leaders are wary of agreeing to all of his demands, however, particularly on cutting benefits for EU migrants to Britain.

An Ipsos Mori poll of 16 nations looks at their reactions to Brexit.An Ipsos Mori poll of 16 nations looks at their reactions to Brexit.An Ipsos Mori poll of 16 nations looks at their reactions to Brexit. Image: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Rick Mertens
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The French are blasé about Brexit while Swedes are more saddened than others in Europe by the UK’s vote to exit the EU, according to a survey.

A 16-country poll by Ipsos Mori showed that almost half — 48 per cent — of respondents from Sweden said they were dismayed by the UK’s decision. It was a different story in France, where only a quarter of respondents said they were sad about Brexit.

The survey also suggested divergent views on how to proceed with talks on a British exit, with people in France and Belgium seeking “unfavourable” terms for the UK to dissuade any other country from following the British out the door.

 Share of people saying they are sad about UK decision to leave EU
Image: FT Ipsos

But the Brexit vote was welcomed in Russia, the only surveyed country in which a majority of respondents approved of the Leave vote. Among Russians polled, 54 per cent reckoned Britain was making the right move.

Ipsos Mori interviewed more than 12,000 adults in the fortnight following the referendum, with the objective of obtaining a picture of the reaction to Brexit in leading countries around the world.

 Share thinking that EU should offer favourable terms to UK
Image: Ipsos, FT

The EU countries covered included the UK itself in addition to Germany, France, Belgium and Sweden, while the non-EU countries polled included the US, Russia and India.

Russia and India were noticeably more positive on the UK’s post-Brexit prospects than those in other countries, including respondents in other EU members states.

But a majority of respondents in most countries felt that Brexit would be bad for the UK economy. Japan was especially gloomy, with more than two-thirds of respondents expecting Britain to experience an economic downturn.

Image: Ipsos, FT

With the official starting point of Britain’s official exit negotiation still to be determined, the poll shows a divide between the Brits and other Europeans on the talks. Some 56 per cent of Britons think the UK should receive favourable exit terms, more than twice as many as in Germany, Belgium and France. Non-EU countries are more lenient, with 39 per cent saying favourable conditions should be offered.

The poll also found that one in four respondents in the EU states surveyed was less likely to buy British following the referendum result — despite Leave campaign claims of minimal economic damage it the UK voted to leave the EU.

The survey also suggested that it is the British people themselves who are the most likely to regret the decision to leave, with 49 per cent of respondents saying they felt sad about Brexit. That figure is more than in any of the surveyed countries.

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