French support for Britain staying in the European Union has slumped, two polls to be published in rival newspapers today indicate, albeit with some major differences and unexpected caveats.
One of the surveys, carried out for tabloid Le Parisien's Sunday edition, suggests a narrow
majority of voters would be happy to see their cross-channel neighbour walk away after the in-out referendum promised by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Voters polled by the Journal du Dimanche, in contrast, supported Britain staying in by a 58-42 majority.
That headline figure disguised a remarkable discrepancy in the opinions of men and women.
French women, according to the JDD poll, are strongly in favour (69%) of Cameron and his compatriots continuing to enjoy the full priveleges of membership of the 27-nation bloc.
French men favour saying 'au revoir' to Britain by a 54-46 majority.
Le Parisien's poll produced an overall 52-48 balance of opinion in favour of Britain leaving the EU amongst those that had a view (97% of those surveyed).
Despite the discrepancies in the results and even after allowing for margins of error, both polls suggest that French support for their cross-Channel neighbour being part of the EU club has been significantly eroded in the four decades since Britain joined on January 1, 1973.
Prior to that, a referendum held in France in April 1972 overwhelmingly approved the accession of Britain, Denmark, Ireland and Norway to the-then European Economic Community with over 68 per cent of voters in favour.
Norway opted not to join after its own referendum produced a negative result while Britain, which had signed up under Edward Heath's Conservative government, voted to stay in when the issue was put to a popular vote by the subsequent Labour government in 1975.
The first polls published in Britain in the aftermath of Cameron's pledge to hold an in-out vote by 2017 suggested a majority would vote to leave, although nearly one in four voters declared themselves undecided.
Cameron said on Wednesday he wants to renegotiate the terms of Britain's relationship with Brussels and then put that to the vote, provided he wins a general election due to take place by 2015.
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