In a recent poll, 57% of Britons said they felt EU membership is bad for Britain. Only 32% thought it was good.
Those with a negative view tend to be older, and those with a positive view of EU membership younger, so there may be a gradual move in a more positive direction. Of people under 34 years of age, 45% have a positive view of EU membership, as against only 22% of the over 55 year olds.
It is a pity that British public opinion is so negative towards the EU, because it inhibits British influence in the EU, which often would be a force for good.
British political leadership, by Mrs Thatcher and Commissioner Cockfield, helped create the EU Single market. British officials are, in my experience, among the very best in the European Commission. British pragmatism is a useful antidote to the doctrinal approaches that sometime influence the policies of other EU member states.
I was very disappointed that the British Prime Minister did not allow the fiscal compact to be incorporated in an amendment to the existing EU Treaties, and forced the other states to adopt it as an intergovernmental Treaty outside the EU framework.
Since 1992, Britain has an opt out from the euro, written into the EU Treaties, and it could have opted out of the fiscal compact too, while ratifying it for application to other EU countries.
That would have consistent with previous British statements to the effect that it wants to euro to succeed, because the euro area is an important British market, but it does not want to join it itself.
The underlying reasons for British, and more particularly southern English, attitudes to the EU probably have very deep historical roots.
Southern England felt itself directly threatened from continental Europe at the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588, during Napoleons domination of the continent in the early 19thcentury, and again, of course, in 1940. The last successful invasion took place in 1066!
On the other hand, the existence of the euro, and of the EU Single market is one of the reasons for the success of London as a financial centre, and for the fact that that part of Britain is more prosperous than any other.
Security is a priority for Britain. This is reasonable. Without security, there can be neither law nor prosperity.
The Royal Navy was the original guarantor of British security. The relationship with the United States has, since 1940, become even more important that its own Navy, as the guarantor. I believe that a strong EU, in which Britain played a leading role, would actually provide Britain, including the South of England, with better all round security, than its present almost exclusive reliance on a power on the other side of the Atlantic ever can.