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Most Europeans believe EU could collapse in the next 20 years

Nigel Farage, whose eurosceptic Brexit party is top of the polls, would gladly welcome the EU's collapse. 
Nigel Farage, whose eurosceptic Brexit party is top of the polls, would gladly welcome the EU's collapse.  Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

Most Europeans believe that the EU could disintegrate in the next two decades, with three out of ten predicting war could break out on the continent, even though support for Brussels is at its highest for more than 25 years.

Three out of ten Europeans in the 14 countries surveyed in a poll commissioned by the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank said that war between EU countries remained a “realistic possibility”.

The survey found that more than half of people in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia, Romania, Greece, the Czech Republic and Poland said the EU’s collapse was a “realistic possibility”.

Sweden (44 percent), Denmark (41 percent) and Spain (40 percent) were the only countries out of the 14 polled by YouGov where less than half of respondents predicted a possible collapse.

The poll showed that 58 percent of French people believe the EU is very likely or fairly likely to fall apart within 20 years.  

92 percent of voters in this month’s European elections said they would lose out if the EU collapsed.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, is ardently pro-EU but his Renaissance party is trailing the eurosceptic National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, in the polls ahead of this month's European elections.

Supporters of the EU point out that its birth as the European Coal and Steel Community was designed in part to prevent another war in Europe.

But a third of voters in France and Poland said another European conflict was possible.

That view was particularly strong among those planning to abstain or vote for far right parties in May 23-26 elections.

46 percent of National Rally voters and 41 percent of Germany’s Alternativ fur für Deutschland said there could be another war.

Marine Le Pen's nationalists are expected to beat Mr Macon's pro-EU party at the elections. Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe

There were some predictions after the 2016 referendum that the EU would collapse after Brexit triggered a domino effect on the remaining 27 member states but that did not happen. 

A recent survey by the EU’s Eurobarometer agency found that two-thirds of Europeans have positive feelings towards the bloc, the highest since 1983.

The figures also revealed that less than half of Britons would back remaining in the EU if there was a second referendum.

But eurosceptic parties are expected to make gains in the European Parliament elections.

Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said, “There are seven days to resolve the paradox at the heart of the European project. Support for EU membership is at the highest level since 1983, and yet a majority of voters fear the EU might collapse.

“The challenge for pro-Europeans is to use this fear of loss to mobilise their silent majority and ensure that it is not just the anti-system parties who get their say on May 26.”

He added, “With a volatile European electorate, there are up to 97 million voters who could still be persuaded to vote for different parties.”

Turnout in the European Parliament elections has dropped every time they have been held since the first in 1979.