Europe Economy

Most French People Want 'Les Rosbifs' to Leave EU

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The British Prime Minister threw down the gauntlet on EU membership last week, announcing a referendum on U.K. membership of the EU by 2017. Now a new opinion poll in France shows a majority of the French population favor an exit by the British, who are nick-named "Les Rosbifs", from the Union.

Fifty-two percent of French people are in favor of Britain leaving the EU, according to a poll of 1,136 people conducted by French market research agency, BVA. Forty-eight percent of French people surveyed don't want the U.K. to exit the EU.

According to the poll released by the newspapers, Le Parisien and Aujord'hui, the split has a lot to do with political affiliation, with 54 percent of left-leaning voters in favor of "Brixit," compared to 48 percent of those on the right of the political spectrum.

The results are a far cry from 1973, when 68 percent of French people voted in favor of the U.K. joining the EU.

Speculation over the U.K. leaving the EU has been rife since the British prime minister, David Cameron, promised to give the generally euro-skeptic British public a referendum over EU membership should his Conservative party win another term in power after national elections in 2015.

However, another poll by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP), also released on Sunday, said that 58 percent of French people interviewed did not want Britain to leave the EU. The poll in the French newspaper,the "Journal du Dimanche," said that the corresponding 42 percent wanted Britain to leave by 2015-2017.

However, young people are the most likely to support continued U.K.-membership in the EU, with 75 percent of adults under 35 years wanting Britain to stay, according to the poll. Older people were more reticent, the survey said, with 54 percent of those aged over 65 voting for a U.K./EU "divorce."

(Read More: Young Brits Support EU as Politicians Squabble)

Interestingly, the IFOP survey mirrors a British poll on EU membership where young people overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU,with older Britons more cynical about the benefits of staying in the Union.

An Entente Not-So Cordiale?

Despite the signing of the "Entente Cordiale" in 1904 – an agreement designed to put aside colonial and economic disputes between then global superpowers Britain and France - a sense of thinly-veiled political antipathy has existed between the two countries, most recently exposed by political disagreements over increasing the EU budget.

(Read More: Did Cameron Say What Everyone Else Was Thinking?)

Only last week the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that France would "roll out the red carpet" for Britain to leave the EU, a retort to a comment made by London mayor Boris Johnson, who said in late 2012 that businesses leaving France would have the red carpet rolled out for them in Britain.

Guillaume Desjardins contributed reporting to this story.