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Number of Brits who feel attached to the EU on the rise despite Brexit

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
Anti-Brexit protestors outside the Houses of Parliament (Getty)

The number of British nationals who feel European is growing despite Brexit, according to a new poll.

An EU survey found 57 per cent of people in the UK said they feel like citizens of the EU.

That’s an increase of 2 per cent since the last poll in November and 4 per cent since the poll taken a month before the 2016 referendum on EU membership.

Despite the rise, Britain remains among the member states with the fewest number of people who identify themselves as EU citizens. Only Italy, Greece and Bulgaria have fewer.

The number of Brits who say they trust the EU remains low at 30 per cent (+1), as does the number of Brits who have a positive image of the EU. It’s just 34 per cent (-1).

Graph showing the percentage of people in each EU member state who identify as EU citizens (Eurobarometer)

By contrast, our nearest neighbours are growing more supporting of the EU as Brexit.

Ireland has the highest number of people with a positive image of the EU – 64 per cent compared to 40 per cent EU-wide.

Trust in the EU and optimism in the bloc’s future are both up by 4 per cent in Ireland.

MORE: Irish support for EU hits record level amid Brexit talks

That mirrors the result of another recent poll which found a 16 per cent increase in support for EU membership of the last year.

The EU will view both as a vote of confidence in the tough line they’re taking in Brexit negotiations over the Irish border.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (left) speaks alongside Irish PM Leo Varadkar (Getty)

Of EU policies, freedom of movement maintains high support in the UK despite immigration being a major issue in the Brexit referendum.

The poll found 72 per cent of Brits support the right to move to life, work or study across the EU, although that’s down by 3 per cent since the last poll and low compared to other EU countries.

MORE: Expats demand May fights for their right to free movement after Brexit

The Euro currency and subsidies for farmers are the least popular EU policies among UK voters.

Across Europe, voters said migration and terrorism are the issues that the EU should prioritiese.

Graph showing support in every member state for freedom of movement (Eurobarometer)

Overall, the results provided a boost to the EU. Trust in it is at its highest level (42 per cent) since the financial crisis.

But it remains low in many of the countries hardest hit by the crisis, such as Italy, Greece and Spain.

The significant fall in support in Hungary, whose populist government regularly clashes with Brussels, will be a concern.

As will a huge 6 per cent fall in trust for the EU in Belgium, the country that hosts most of its institutions.