- Europe is feeling gloomy. Germany aside, it’s hard to find many people who say their country is going in the right direction. In France, only 12% feel this way.
- This negative mood extends to the economy. In Spain, 87% say their economy is in “bad” shape, while in France and Italy it’s 86%. Meanwhile the Belgians (on 67%) and the British (on 59%) end 2016 with a more downbeat assessment than they began it.
- We need to be careful about generalising too much about “European public opinion”. For example, when we look at the main concerns in different EU countries, there is no consistent picture. The British are the only ones to put immigration top. The French and Belgians are most worried about terrorism. In Spain and Italy people are preoccupied with unemployment. Hungarians and Poles focus on healthcare, while in Germany the main concern is about inequality.
- Only the French and Italians could see Brexit coming. When asked in May about the likely outcome, six in ten of them said the UK would leave. But it was certainly an unexpected result for the British themselves: two in three of them expected “Remain” to prevail.
- Not too many Europeans are celebrating Brexit. Some 55% say it was “the wrong decision for Britain”. And 53% think it will have a negative impact on the EU’s economy.
- In the Brexit negotiations, it looks like the British have some allies in Hungary and Poland. These are the two countries most likely to say the UK should be offered “favourable terms”. At the other end of the spectrum are the French and Belgians, who take a harder line.
- Despite concerns about the economy, Europe’s 52 million affluent consumers continue to spend their money. They remain instinctively European - something we see in their attitudes towards the EU and in terms of where they choose to live: 26% of them live abroad.
- Affluent or not, people in Europe have fairly clear views about their country’s infrastructure. These range from very positive (the French about their roads, the Poles about their airports) to very critical indeed (the British about the lack of new housing and the Russians about their local roads).
- EU workers don’t seem too excited about what’s happening at work. Most say their motivation is “staying about the same” or “getting worse”.
- What Europeans do get excited about are their holidays. The beach is by far the most popular destination, favoured by 65%. The Italians, Spanish and French (in that order) tend to find what they are looking for in their own country and don’t venture further afield. The Germans are more likely to travel further - which may help to explain why they are also the most inclined to “completely log off work” when they get there: 80% have a total shutdown.
This article was published on the Huffington Post UK.
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