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08 July 2013
Listen to Professor Richard Wyn Jones discuss the report’s key findings:
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There is a strong relationship between Euroscepticism in England and English (rather than British) national identity, a joint University report has uncovered.
The Future of England Survey (FoES) 2012 is a joint initiative between the University’s Wales Governance Centre, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) the Academy of Government at Edinburgh University.
Led by the Wales Governance Centre’s Professor Richard Wyn Jones and Roger Scully the FoES is the most comprehensive examination of how public attitudes within England are changing in respect of issues around national identity, nationhood and governance
The report England and its Two Unions: the anatomy of a nation and its discontents published today (Monday 8th July) shows that while people living in England retain a dual sense of identity, they are increasingly choosing to prioritise their English over their British identity. The report is based on a poll of over 3,500 people living in England only.
While more than half of people living in England who say they are ‘more English than British’ say that the UK’s membership of the EU is a ‘bad thing’, less than a third of people who feel ‘more British than English’ agree.
Euroscepticism is concentrated most heavily among those with a stronger sense of
English national identity - a group that represents a growing proportion of the population.
By contrast it is those with a stronger sense of British national identity - who make up the smallest part of the English population - who are most supportive of the EU.
Director of the University’s Wales Governance Centre and co-author of the report, Professor Richard Wyn Jones, said: "Alienated from both Europe and the other nations of the UK, and especially Scotland, the English appear increasingly discontented with their lot.
"Yet the British political class seems largely unable to recognise that there's a problem let alone suggest relevant solutions. This report should stand as a stark warning. It's high time that England and Englishness receive due recognition from the political system.
"The rise of UKIP underlines the dangers of not taking England seriously. That party is already the de facto English National Party and the inter-relationship between Euro-scepticism and discontent with the way that England is governed creates the perfect opportunity for that party to further strengthen its appeal."
The report also shows a strong relationship between Euroscepticism in England and concerns about the perceived unfairness of devolution. Those that believe membership of the EU is a bad thing also strongly believe that ‘Scotland gets more than its fair share of public spending’, that ‘Scottish MPs should no longer vote on English laws’ and that the ‘UK government cannot be trusted to work in England’s interest’.
There is now a substantial strain of English opinion who wish to see UK withdrawal from the EU and who support giving England greater recognition in the UK’s constitutional arrangements.
The report argues that the main political parties have not done enough to address the growing importance of the politics of English nationhood. It shows that the English now believe that UKIP is the party that is best placed to ‘stand up for English interests’ (and the number who believe this has doubled between 2011 and 2013).
Nick Pearce, IPPR Director, said: "English identity is on the rise and it is increasingly expressed in terms that are resentful of both the EU and the devolution settlement. Attitudes towards England’s two unions are related and two sides of the same coin of English discontent.
"Our mainstream political parties need to embrace Englishness, take it seriously, and find new ways of giving it political expression. Labour and progressive politics need to recognise that Englishness is not something to be feared or abandoned to those on the margins of right wing politics. But the longer this debate is ignored, or worse, denied, the more likely we will see a backlash within England against the UK. "
Charlie Jeffery, Professor of Politics at Edinburgh University and co-author of the report said: "One of the most striking features of these findings is the sheer strength of feeling uncovered among the English. Among those with a strong sense of English identity, the feeling that England is getting a raw deal in the post-devolution UK is nigh on universal.
"There appears to be reluctance in some quarters to talk about England for fear of how it might play in Scotland in the run-up to 2014. But it is surely mistaken to allow the debate in Scotland to inhibit a discussion about England's place in a reformed union."
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