Europe - the floating vote

Nick Robinson crosses the channel

After Britain votes in three weeks time will the English Channel feel just a little bit wider? Will the gap between Britain and Europe have grown bigger?

For the last of my election previews I've taken my ballot box onto a cross-channel ferry to explore the issue the European elections are meant to be about - Europe itself. Today's question for voters - have you had enough of the EU?

You might think that the men who earn their living driving trucks across borders and who make a reality of the EU's single market would be cheerleaders for the EU. You'd be wrong. In the drivers' canteen many of those I approached to talk replied: "No English. We're Romanian [or Bulgarian]." The British drivers think they are taking their jobs.

Elsewhere on board the ferry is a greater range of views. Plenty of people will line up to say they're fed up with Europe but that is different from saying you'd vote to leave the EU.

My survey of opinion is unscientific but opinion polls confirm that something interesting has been happening in recent months - once people focus on the possibility of Britain actually leaving the vote gets a whole lot closer.

Since the turn of the year YouGov have found those wanting to stay in the EU outnumbering the numbers wanting to get out even though for month after month in 2013 out was consistently in the lead.

YouGov graph

For years European elections have done little to change the direction of the country but perhaps this time will be different.

Certainly some on both sides sense this vote really matters.

If - as polls have been predicting - UKIP wins the European elections there will still be another question to ask - was this the country sending a message to the establishment (as they have done by voting Lib Dem or Green or BNP in the past) or the beginning of a more fundamental shift in the future of the country?

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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