Exclusive: Overwhelming majority of Brits support Ukraine joining EU a year on from illegal invasion

Published on March 01, 2023

Exclusive new polling released last night shows overwhelming support for Ukraine’s entry into the European Union. This surge in support comes as the continent reflects on the lives lost in Ukraine over the last year.

Over half of all Britons support Ukraine joining the EU, versus just one in ten who don't. The top reasons were to boost their security and defence against Russia (62%) and reduce Russian influence in Europe (49%)

Brits also think Ukraine should be welcomed into the bloc to improve the country's connections to central and Western Europe (56%) and improve the country’s economy (52%).

The issue cuts across party and Brexit lines, with a majority of voters from all parties and both sides of the referendum supporting the move.

Liberal Democrat voters were the keenest to see Ukraine welcomed, with 67% in favour, but a majority of voters from all parties advocated for the move, including Conservatives (55%), Labour (62%), Green (63%) and Brexit Party (48%).

64% of those who voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum would support Ukraine joining the EU, versus just 12% who wouldn't. Leave voters also advocated the idea, with 49% to 11% in favour.

Britons increasingly see the war with Russia as a “battle for democracy”, with 58% agreeing with US President Joe Biden, who made the comments earlier this week on his first visit to Ukraine since the full-scale war began. Only 13% disagree.

These figures match the 54% of Britons who feel less secure since Russia invaded Ukraine, with just 6% feeling more secure.

European Movement UK, who commissioned the polling, has called for the UK to sign up to an EU defence and security cooperation agreement in a bid to stabilise the continent and "defend democracy".

But the UK’s involvement in the war has also increased patriotism. A third of us feel prouder of our country because of the UK's support of Ukraine which has included providing weapons and defence alongside safety and accommodation for Ukrainian refugees.

The UK and European countries were leading voices in solidarity with Ukraine, quickly offering refuge and defence operations in the struggle against Russia.

The war has strengthened relationships between the UK, Ukraine and the EU. This is reflected in Britons’ attitudes towards the country joining the EU, despite our own chaotic departure just three years ago.

The polling also uncovers that Britons believe we are stronger and more secure when working together across borders.

52% of Britons believe that Ukraine joining the EU will improve its economy, whilst 62% think it is more secure as part of the bloc, aligning with current political views from former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, both of whom support Ukraine’s entry into the EU.

Verhostadt said that “a united Europe, certainly on defence matters, would make an enormous difference”, and in the last three weeks, the UK and EU have pledged further defence to Ukraine.

Britons and politicians agree that the most effective route to defeating common enemies like Russia is working together across the continent, demonstrating a startling shift from the arguments of 2016.

Britons are clear: they want Ukrainians to be safe and have a strong economy post-war, and they believe that the illegal invasion is a “battle for democracy”. Over half think this is easier when we work together in the EU. 

In March 2022, more than 150,000 people took to the streets in London against Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in one of the largest demonstrations in British history, organised by the European Movement.

CEO of the European Movement UK, Anna Bird, said:

“We are proud of our country and our role in supporting Ukraine so far, and there’s no doubt that the UK stands with Ukraine, now and forever.

“Britons rightly see our country as having a moral duty to protect and defend our neighbours against illegal and aggressive acts of war, wherever they originate. But there is more to do.

“Our polling uncovers how much stronger, safer and more prosperous we are when we work together across Europe, where we share common values, standards and goals. And Putin’s invasion of Ukraine underscores the importance of working across Europe to bolster our security and defence. 

“Past arguments about a common European defence policy being a loss of sovereignty must be put to bed. It is essential that British leaders now work more constructively with the EU to guarantee safety across our continent, including signing a UK/EU defence and security cooperation agreement.

“The European Movement will continue to advocate for a closer relationship between the UK, Ukraine and the EU to defend our shared democracy and ensure Ukraine prevails.”

Leader of the Golos Party, Member of Ukraine's Parliament and Vice President of Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), Kira Rudik, said:

"The UK is one of our key allies in this war. Not only because of the amount of support – weapons, supplies, ammunition, training of our troops, and humanitarian aid – but also because they have expressed consistent leadership in decision-making, going one step further in responding to our needs.

"The consistency of support throughout the leadership changes proves that it is not a political or a personal gesture; standing with Ukraine is a will of the British people. 

"The critical lesson that we have learned over the last year is the strength of unity. We are capable of so much more when we work and act together, which is why we see the future of Ukraine within the EU and NATO alliances.

"It is so important to know that we are not alone in this fight. And so amazing to feel the support of British people on all levels; taking care of our refugees, sending humanitarian and military aid, and most of all - believing that we will win. We will never forget it."

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