Nearly 70 per cent of people in Northern Ireland would now vote to remain in the EU…an increase of 13 per cent since the referendum
Most Northern Catholics support the Union if in EU… but not outside it. Few across UK think Union will last into next century
An even larger majority of people in Northern Ireland (69 per cent) would vote to remain in the EU – or its Single Market and Customs Union – than did in the 2016 Brexit referendum, according to a major study by Queen’s University, Belfast published this week.
That 69 of people in Northern Ireland who would now vote to remain in the EU is a 13 per cent increase on the 56 per cent who voted to remain in the 2016 Referendum. Despite this increased majority Northern Ireland’s ‘Remain’ voters have no representation at Westminster as the DUP – which is propping up PM Theresa May’s commons majority is pro-Brexit and Sinn Fein is abstentionist.
Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast surveyed more than a thousand people for the project which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s The UK in a Changing Europe project. The authors said they found there was “substantial support” for a form of Brexit that would “largely eliminate the need for any north-south or east-west border checks, namely for the UK as a whole to remain in the customs union and single market”.
They found “a substantial and intense opposition” to border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and to checks in airports and ports between Northern Ireland and Britain. They also found there are strong expectations that north-south and east-west checks would attract protests that could “quickly deteriorate into violence”.
There was “substantial” support for Northern Ireland staying in the customs union and the single market, something to which the DUP is implacably opposed. Support among Protestants to remain in the customs union and single market was marginally higher at 62 per cent compared with 51 per cent of Catholics.
The researchers’ findings suggest that in the event of a possible border poll, 50 per cent of people would support the idea of remaining part of the UK, with 21 per cent of those surveyed saying they would vote for Irish unity. Some 61 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of the UK remaining part of the Single Market and Customs Union a view held by 61 per cent of Catholics and 62 per cent of Protestants.
Director of the research Professor John Garry, of Queens University, said: “We find Catholics and Protestants most prefer the option that would avoid the need for any new barriers on borders – either in the Irish Sea or across Ireland.”
He said that if there is a “hard” Brexit in which the UK no longer had access to the Customs Union and the Single Market, Catholics – at 50 per cent compared to 28 per cent if the UK changed its mind and stayed in the EU – would be far more likely to support a united Ireland.
Survey researcher and visiting professor Brendan O’Leary, Lauder Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “Our results show that if there was another referendum, people in Northern Ireland would vote more strongly to remain in the EU.
“The proportion wanting to remain has risen since the 2016 referendum as more people have become aware of the possible costs and inconveniences of leaving the EU, as citizens and as employees or employers.”
The survey also found:
One in five Catholics found the possible use of cameras at the Irish border “almost impossible to accept” and nearly one in 10 Catholics (9 per cent) would support cameras being vandalised.
There were strong expectations that protests against checks at the Irish border or between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would quickly become violent.
There was substantial support for a Brexit that would largely eliminate the need for any North-South or East-West border checks, namely for the UK as a whole to remain in the customs union and single market. An IPSOS Mori, conducted on behalf of Queen’s found that just 21.1 per cent of people in Northern Ireland would vote for Irish unity after the UK leaves the EU. Only 42.6 per cent of Catholics living in Northern Ireland, less than half, would vote for a united Ireland with 26 per cent undecided.
Meanwhile, a separate poll by ICM has found that while most people in Northern Ireland – nearly 70 per cent – actually support the Union the same number of people believe that Brexit is more likely to lead to the eventual break-up of the United Kingdom. A clear majority of people in the UK favour the Union in its current form – including 59 per cent in Northern Ireland. Only 23 per cent of those questioned in Northern Ireland were actually ‘against’ the Union.
Election held tomorrow
The ICM poll asked respondents “If there were a general election held tomorrow, which party would you vote for?”
Some 27 per cent said they would vote DUP, 22 per cent would vote Sinn Fein, 11 per cent for SDLP and three per cent for ‘others’. Four per cent would not vote and 10 per cent did not know.
In England 78 per cent favoured the Union, in Scotland it was 60 per cent, 69 per cent in Wales, and 70 per cent in Northern Ireland. But of those some 58 per cent of people in England, 59 per cent in Scotland, 54 per cent in Wales and 60 per cent in Northern Ireland believe that Brexit has made the break-up of the UK more likely.
Few people in Northern Ireland, of those surveyed by ICM, believed that the Union will last in the long term. Some 63 per cent believe the Union will still exist in 10 years time but only 28 per cent believe it will be around in 50 years and only 22 per cent believe it will last into the next century.
The UK’s Brexit Secretary David Davis made a second flying visit to Northern Ireland on Sunday, meeting businesses as part of his cabinet research into the “maximum facilitation” – or Max Fac – option for a post-Brexit customs system. Mr Davis made the trip with the Business Secretary Greg Clark.
Both Cabinet members joined Northern Secretary Karen Bradley in meetings with cross-border companies. Mr Davis previously faced criticism from Sinn Féin after he made an unannounced visit to the border region in County Armagh in April. Mr Davis’ so called “maximum facilitation” – Max Fac – the competing proposal to the UK’s suggestion it could collect customs and duties on behalf of the EU – would rely on as yet non-existent technology to minimise the need for customs checks after Brexit.
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