Analysis: Britons hanker for life outside EU as crisis bites

Fri Oct 28, 2011 12:39pm EDT
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By Adrian Croft

TUNBRIDGE WELLS, England (Reuters) - In Tunbridge Wells, a typically English small town south of London, workers and shoppers around the modern shopping mall talk readily about their frustrations with the EU and their desire for a referendum that could lead Britain to the exit.

Alarm over the euro zone debt crisis has driven hostility to the European Union to new heights in Britain, where voters in the rural heartlands are increasingly ready to say they want to leave the 27-nation bloc after a difficult 38 years.

Shop worker Jenny Davis, 55, backed a referendum on Britain's EU membership.

"I would vote to come out of it because I think they are just dragging us down," she said.

Dominic Budgen, a 33-year-old operations manager, feared Britain could be liable for bailing out members of the euro's single currency zone even though it is not part of the 17-member bloc and he was in favor of a referendum.

"I would probably vote to leave," he said.

Despite public fears, finance minister George Osborne has insisted Britain will not contribute to any euro zone bailout fund and Prime Minister David Cameron believes it is in Britain's interest to remain in the EU's single market where it conducts more than half of its trade.

Unhappiness with Britain's weak economy may be finding an outlet in criticism of the EU. Unemployment is rising, inflation high and growth stagnant as the coalition government slashes public spending to rein in a big budget deficit.   Continued...