If David Cameron can secure a major renegotiation of the UK-EU relationship, the majority say they would vote 'in' – but immigration and welfare reform are priorities for swing voters
In a major new survey for the Sun, YouGov reveals the three possible outcomes for the 2017 EU referendum – and what it would take to persuade key undecided voters to keep Britain ‘in’.
David Cameron has said that if his is re-elected in 2015, Britain will be asked whether it wants to leave the European Union or stay in under a new ‘renegotiated’ relationship with the EU, which is the Conservatives' preference.
The precise details of the renegotiation – and whether Cameron will get them – have been subject to much speculation, with many calling the pledge a ‘gamble’. But in the event that he fails to win back powers from Brussels, 45% say they would vote ‘out’ while 32% would vote to stay in.
If the changes are moderate, securing guarantees over some key issues but not in any major policy areas, voters are currently tied at 39% ‘in’ and 38% ‘out’. But if Cameron secures a major renegotiation, with substantial changes to the rules Britain has to follow and British opt-outs from EU rules in several policy areas, Britain would vote to stay in. Fully 52% say they would vote to remain members compared to only 23% who would vote to leave.
The most important point, however, is not how people would vote in hypothetical scenarios, but who would have to be targeted to get them to vote in the desired way – and what would get them to do so.
To find these key voters, YouGov identified those who say they would vote one way in one of the above three scenarios, and then another way in a different one – these are the ‘swing voters’; the ones who could, potentially have their minds changed (20% of the public). They contrast to those who choose 'in' (28%) or 'out' (21%) in all three scenarios, or to those who would not vote or don't know (31%).
Top of the list of priorities for this key group is getting powers to control immigration from the EU back from Brussels: 61% of swing voters say Britain should only agree to stay in the EU on the condition of a renegotiation if we get this. Gaining powers to decide which benefits to offer EU citizens is also popular (a priority for 46%).
But while the government has been vocal on such issues, recently suggesting a cap on immigration and restrictions on immigrant’s benefits, they have been less so on the third most important issue for swing voters: reducing the money Britain pays the EU.
And in contrast, while Theresa May has made relaxing the European Convention on Human Rights a priority, it does not rank highly among the important swing voters; it is only the seventh highest priority.
The pressure for the Conservatives to secure concrete victories against Europe is expected to rise going into 2014, as they try to convince voters not to side with UKIP in the May European parliamentary elections, and attempt to limit the amount of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants coming to Britain once restrictions are lifted in January.