A deep Euro-hostility is revealed in the results of MT's survey on Maastricht.
Overwhelming hostility to the terms of the Maastricht Treaty proved to be the major finding of the exclusive Management Today survey in our September issue. Well over 3,000 readers had filled in and returned the questionnaire by the time we had to go to press. Even after that replies continued to flood in.
Asked how they would vote in a referendum on whether the UK should sign up to Maastricht, some 2,074, or 68.4%, said they would vote no and just 922, or 30.4% said yes, with a tiny 1.2% undecided.
Clearly, on these findings, Britain's businessmen show a more marked antagonism to the Treaty than was revealed among the general public in Denmark and France by the referendums there.
Also our poll indicates a deeper Euro-hostility among British businessmen than many opinion polls of the general public published in the national press recently. An Independent on Sunday poll in September, for instance, found 24 % for and 47% against the Treaty.
Our poll, of course, preceded the shenanigans at the Tory Party Conference where an impassioned Lord Tebbit claimed that a show of hands had revealed more than half the delegates to be antis while a cooler, but more than usually emotional foreign secretary, Douglas Hurd, claimed that the opposition only numbered a third.
Our more scientific poll showed that the Government's reluctance to test its support for Maastricht in a referendum runs counter to business opinion by a large margin, similar to that which opposes the Maastricht Treaty in general. Some 2,100 (or 69.3% of our respondents) backed the call for a referendum, with just 29.5% rejecting this approach and declaring itself prepared to leave things to Parliament.
On these results Euro-scepticism undoubtedly runs particularly strongly among businessmen in Britain, a scepticism which would not have been lessened perhaps by the alarming gyrations in the currency markets in mid-September which, though depressing for the public at large, might well have increased a sense of greater helplessness among the recession-battered businessmen in the trenches.
For prime minister John Major, surveying the wreckage of his economic and foreign policy in the light of Britain's withdrawal from the European exchange rate mechanism (ERM) and now committed to bringing ratification of the Maastricht Treaty before the Commons as close to the end of the year as possible, there can be little comfort in the finding that just one in five, or 20.2% of our respondents, support government policy right down the line: that is they are prepared to accept the Treaty without a referendum. Specific aspects of the Treaty such as political union, economic union, the social chapter, and institutional changes, were singularly unpopular and crushingly rejected.
Those in favour of political union, numbered 760; those against, 2,052, with only 141 indifferent and 38 "don't knows". Economic union was less frowned upon but here, too, there was a majority against. Those approving numbered 1,300; those disapproving, 1,532, with the figures for the indifferent and the "don't knows" 111 and 48 respectively.
The social chapter, acceptance of which by the Government might well be the price of Labour and Liberal Democrat support in the Commons, had the support of 985, with 1,656 opposing it.
The prospect of change in the way we do things obviously causes apprehension among a majority. Some 708 approved of institutional change; 1,919 disapproved.
The debate, of course, continues at a maximum decibel level but it seems that those Euro-enthusiasts who in general have been given to claiming that their fervour strikes an answering chord among those who lead the struggle for our daily bread - Britain's businessmen - should give pause before reiterating this claim.
Maastricht Treaty Questionnaire results
yes no don't know
How would you vote
in a referendum on
whether the UK should
sign the 922 2074 36
Maastricht Treaty? 30.4% 68.4% 1.2%
Do you think there should
be a referendum in
the UK on the 2100 896 36
Maastricht Treaty? 69.3% 29.5% 1.2%
approve disapprove don't know
Do you approve/
disapprove of the
following aspects of
Political Union 760 2052 38
25.4% 68.6% 1.3%
Economic + Monetary Union 1300 1523 48
43.5% 50.9% 1.6%
The Social Chapter 985 1656 74
32.9% 55.3% 2.4%
Institutional Changes 708 1919 139
23.6% 63.8% 4.5%
Source: Management Today Maastricht Questionnaire, September issue.
NB The figures do not always add up to 100% as not all questions were