Under a clear blue sky, European flags are waving in front of the building of the European Commission, the Berlaymont in Brussels.

Brexit boosts EU survey results

Since 2015, the Bertelsmann Stiftung has been using Europe-wide surveys to gauge the EU's approval ratings. The latest results show that Brexit has succeeded where many EU politicians have failed – improving the Union's popularity.


Brexit has boosted the EU's standing with the public. Since the referendum in which Britons voted against remaining in the EU, the Union's approval ratings have risen almost everywhere – including Britain. These are the preliminary findings of "eupinions," a regular survey which is representative of the EU and its six largest member states, presenting a snapshot of public sentiment about the Union. "The looming Brexit seems to have been the best advertisement for the EU. Unfortunately many Britons are only now coming to recognize the advantages of a united Europe. Now both sides must agree on clear rules for the future, because there won't be an 'à la carte' Europe," says Aart De Geus, chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Across Europe, approval of EU membership climbed to 62 percent in August 2016. For the previous survey in March 2016, and thus before Brexit, the figure was just 57 percent. The United Kingdom offered a similar picture – whereas not even half of the population were in favor of the EU before the referendum (49 percent), approval ratings climbed to 56 percent after Brexit. This means, according to "eupinions," that for the first time since 2015, the Britons are more pro-Europe than the French or the Italians, who only offered slim majorities in the current survey (53 and 51 percent, respectively) when questioned on their countries' continued membership of the EU.

"The looming Brexit seems to have been the best advertisement for the EU."

Aart De Geus, chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung

This trend is also seen in other countries. In Germany approval ratings increased by 8 percentage points to 69 percent. In Poland, where the EU enjoys the highest overall positive response, ratings further increased by 9 percentage points to arrive at 77 percent. Only Spain bucked the trend. Approval ratings there fell from 71 to 69 percent, although that still represents the third highest approval rating among the countries included in the survey.

As approval ratings rose in the survey, negative opinions of the EU fell. Across the Union, just over a quarter of Europeans felt that their respective countries should leave the EU (26 percent). This represents a fall of 4 percentage points. Those most in favor of exit were the Italians (41 percent), least disposed were the Poles (17 percent) and Spaniards (18 percent). According to the survey, around every fifth German and just under a third of the French are in favor of exiting the EU.