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Nearly half of Britons would vote for EU exit: poll

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(LONDON) - Nearly half of Britons would vote to leave the European Union if there was a referendum and less than a third would vote to stay in the bloc, according to an opinion poll released on Thursday.

The YouGov survey, published a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited London, showed the deep divide within the EU as more than half of Germans also questioned said they would vote to stay in.

YouGov said 49 percent of the Britons surveyed said they would vote to leave the EU, only 28 percent would vote to stay in and 17 percent said they did not know how they would vote.

In Germany however the poll found that 57 percent of Germans would vote to stay in the EU, with only 25 percent saying they would vote to leave the union, and nine percent unsure of how they would vote.

The polling company questioned 1,637 British and 1,018 German adults between October 19 and 28 as part of an online programme tracking public opinion in several European countries.

Joe Twyman, YouGov's director of political and social research, said the result "underlines the scale of the challenge facing both David Cameron and Angela Merkel in trying to come to an agreement over the EU's budget".

"Cameron must attempt to be perceived as a constructive member of the union, while at the same time trying to satisfy public opinion in his own country, where a significant proportion are opposed to Britain's membership," he said.

Cameron and Merkel held talks in London on Wednesday over the EU's hotly contested budget.

The British premier is pushing for a freeze in the trillion-euro 2014-2020 budget, having threatened to veto any rise in spending at a summit in Brussels at the end of the month.

He has previously indicated that he would have a referendum on taking back some powers from Brussels, but not on a full British withdrawal from the 27-member bloc.

Anger among EU partners at what some feel is Britain's obstructive attitude at a time when it is struggling with the euro debt crisis has fuelled talk of a split.

In Britain public feeling about what many see as an increasingly intrusive and costly role taken by Brussels in national life has also increased in recent months.

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