Ireland remains one of the most pro-EU countries, survey shows

A majority UK voters say they would now opt to stay in the EU

Ireland remains one of the most pro-EU countries, survey shows

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New research has found that Ireland remains one of most pro-European countries in Europe.

The study from RED C Research comes amid the backdrop of the UK starting the process to leave the European Union.

When asked how they would vote if there was referendum on membership of the EU, 80% of Irish citizens suggest they would vote to remain - slightly higher than recorded in 2015.

The EU appears to be relatively secure elsewhere in Europe as well - as the percentage of people in Germany, France and Belgium who would vote to leave has fallen from 12 months ago.

Those in Denmark and Sweden are also significantly less likely to vote to leave compared with a year ago.

However, there has been a significant increase in support to leave the EU in Finland (up from 29% to 40%) and in Greece (up from 38% to 46%).

The large increase in support for leaving seen in Italy last year has been maintained in 2016, with 40% (down from 42%) preferring to leave.

UK voters would opt to stay

When the study asked those in the UK how they would vote in a second referendum 54% said they would prefer to be a part of the EU and 46% preferring to remain out - down from the 54% recorded 12 months ago.

Along with Ireland, the Spanish (with 20% voting to leave) are the most pro-EU of those polled.

While Ireland has spent 2016 getting used to a new politics, the people certainly appear to believe it is working.

By some distance the Irish are the most likely to state they feel the country is moving in the right direction.

The survey reveals 62% of the Irish public believe the country is heading in the right direction.

The next most optimistic country is Iceland at 57%.

However for most in Europe, the view is that their countries are heading in the wrong direction - most noticeably in Greece (89%), France (82%) and Italy (79%).

Richard Colwell, CEO of RED C, said: "2016 saw the EU foundations severely shaken.

"While Ireland remains the EU’s strongest supporters, votes in Greece, Italy, Finland would create further uncertainty in the markets.

"But what stands out across Europe is the overwhelming view from most EU citizens, apart from in Ireland, that their countries are heading in the wrong direction (most noticeable in France and Greece) which makes fertile ground for right-wing populist parties".

Optimistic about the EU

It comes after a similar poll from Eurobarometer found Irish people are the most optimistic about the EU's future.

Optimism about the future of the EU is highest in Ireland at 77% - compared to an EU average of only 50%, with Greece in bottom place at 30%.

The survey also showed that 69% of Irish people (up 14 percentage points since spring) feel that things are going in the right direction in Ireland.

This is the highest in the EU where the average is 29%. People in Luxembourg were the second most positive at 61%.

People in Ireland (47%) were also the most positive about the direction in which the EU is going.

However, on average across the EU, only 23% of respondents felt that in general things are going in the right direction in the EU.

Irish respondents (55%) were the most likely to have a positive image of the EU, followed by Poland (51%) and Romania (50%). A further 31% of Irish respondents had a neutral image of the EU while 13% had a negative image.

In the EU as a whole, 35% of respondents had a positive image of the EU while 38% had a neutral image and 25% had a negative image.