Voters oppose free movement of EU workers

John Rentoul

bryant 300x182 Voters oppose free movement of EU workersVoters have turned against the principle of free movement of workers in the European Union over the past four years, according to a ComRes poll for tomorrow’s The Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror.

All citizens of other European Union countries should have the right to live and work in the United Kingdom

Agree 23% (58% May 2009) Disagree 57% (38%) Don’t know 20% (4%)

Whereas a clear majority supported free movement in 2009, as the recession was beginning to bite, now only Lib Dem and Green Party supporters are more likely to support than oppose.

The right of free movement of labour is enshrined in EU treaties, but David Cameron has suggested that it might be restricted as part of his renegotiation of the terms of UK membership before a referendum in 2017, and Chris Bryant, the shadow immigration minister (pictured), this week said that EU law needed to change.

Voting intention figures show little movement, with the UK Independence Party equalling its highest rating in a ComRes online poll:

Con 28% (0)
Lab 37% (+1)
UKIP 19% (+1)
LD 8% (0)
Others 8% (-2)

Change since last month’s ComRes poll for The Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror.

Leadership ratings

Despite the Labour Party maintaining a nine-point lead, Ed Miliband’s personal rating is the worst recorded by ComRes, a net negative 28 percentage points.

Ed Miliband is turning out to be a good leader of the Labour Party

Dec 2010 Apr 2011 Jun 2011 Aug 2012 May 2013 Aug 2013
Agree 17% 24% 18% 25% 31% 22%
Disagree 32% 38% 45% 45% 42% 50%
Don’t know 50% 37% 37% 30% 27% 28%
Net Agree -15 -14 -27 -20 -11 -28

However, David Cameron’s rating is almost the same, at minus 27 points.

David Cameron is turning out to be a good Prime Minister

Dec 2010 Apr 2011 Jun 2011 Aug 2012 Jan 2013 May 2013 Aug 2013
Agree 38% 37% 37% 27% 32% 26% 28%
Disagree 41% 46% 44% 54% 46% 51% 55%
Don’t know 21% 17% 19% 19% 22% 22% 17%
Net Agree -3 -9 -7 -27 -14 -25 -27

EU and immigration

Other questions confirm the hostility of voters to EU immigration, although they tend not to blame “unscrupulous employers” for hiring foreign workers – the phrase deleted from the early version of Chris Bryant’s speech. Two thirds of voters say that companies should be allowed to favour British workers when hiring – even if this meant that the UK would have to leave the EU to get round the rules on free movement.

It is good for Britain that people from the rest of the EU are encouraged to come to work here
Agree: 22%
Disagree: 58%

It is wrong for firms to recruit from overseas while a million young people in Britain are unemployed
Agree: 74%
Disagree: 14%

Businesses cannot be blamed for hiring foreign workers because too many British workers are lazy
Agree: 35%
Disagree: 48%

British firms should be able to give British citizens priority over other EU citizens when hiring new workers, even if this means the UK would have to leave the EU
Agree: 67%
Disagree: 16%

Ed Miliband is right to accept that the last Labour government made major mistakes on immigration
Agree: 76%
Disagree: 8%

For our league table of “inspiring speakers” to mark this month’s 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, from the same poll, buy The Independent on Sunday tomorrow.

ComRes interviewed 2,001 GB adults online on 14 and 15 August 2013. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. Data were also weighted by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables on the ComRes website.

Photograph: Reuters

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