Only a quarter – 26 per cent – of voters now see the EU as “a good thing”, polls show.
Half of those asked would definitely or probably vote now to leave compared to just 36 per cent who would opt to stay in. A fifth think leaving would make little difference.
Pollsters Opinium said the gap between those who would vote to leave and to stay had narrowed in the last year.
But the preference was still clearly to quit – the goal of the Daily Express’s long-running crusade.Businesses were more positive than individuals about EU membership but both groups saw immigration as a downside to EU membership.
“Immigration has without doubt fuelled the rise in anti-EU sentiment over the last few years,” said the pollsters’ report.
Opinium said its findings suggested Britain will vote to leave the EU in the referendum promised by David Cameron by the end of 2017 although the outcome was by no means certain.
Its survey, for Lansons Communications and Brussels-based PR consultants Cambre Associates, found UK voters much more negative about the EU than German, French and Polish citizens.
Britons saw individual aspects of membership such as tourism and ease of doing business as positives.
But 64 per cent said belonging to the EU had a negative impact on the UK when it came to immigration.
Opinium also surveyed businesses in the UK. They were less eurosceptic than their customers, with 47 per cent seeing membership as a good thing although big businesses were more in favour than the smallest firms. But 54 per cent thought EU immigration policies had been bad for the UK compared to 27 per cent seeing them as a positive.
Thirty-eight per cent of firms thought the British economy would be better if the UK left, compared with 31 per cent who thought it would be worse off.
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said: “It will be the positive views of business on an EU exit which shall decide the outcome of an EU referendum.”
Meanwhile, Tory former Chancellor Lord Lamont has accused the Government of repeating “wild claims and false arguments” about the dangers of leaving the EU.
He made his observation in a foreword to Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman’s new book, Time To Jump, showing how the UK could thrive outside the EU.
See on www.express.co.uk