LONDON Concerns about the European Union are at their highest level for 13 years in Britain ahead of a June 23 referendum on whether the country should stay in the bloc, but immigration and health are even more important to the public, a survey suggested on Friday.
Following Prime Minister David Cameron's announcement of the date of the in/out referendum after he renegotiated Britain's membership terms, the EU has shot up Britons' list of the most important matters facing the country, the monthly Economist/Ipsos Mori Issues Index found.
It said a fifth of the public mentioned the EU as amongst the most significant issues facing Britain, with 10 percent rating it as the most important. That was the highest level since 2003, when 10 new countries were allowed to join the bloc, the survey said.
However, the EU still trailed well behind immigration, mentioned by 44 percent of people, and the state-run National Health Service, mentioned by 38 percent, in the list of issues, while the economy was also still regarded as a more pressing concern.
A breakdown of the figures showed richer Britons, those aged over 65, those living in rural areas and those who supported Cameron's Conservative Party were the groups which most regarded the EU as an important issue.
Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,009 people face-to-face at their homes between Feb. 5th and Feb. 23rd.
(Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Estelle Shirbon)