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Brexit: Northern Ireland support to 'remain' in EU soars to 69%

 

By Michael McHugh

Northern Ireland would vote more strongly to remain in the EU if there was another Brexit poll, a study has suggested.

A total of 69% would favour Remain if there was another referendum compared to 56% at the vote two years ago, the UK In A Changing Europe project said.

Catholics were much more likely to support a united Ireland if there was a "hard exit" in which the UK left the customs union and single market.

The Irish border is one of the most vexed questions facing negotiators who aim to strike a deal by the autumn ahead of the UK's withdrawal from the EU next year.

Brendan O'Leary, Lauder Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, who also holds a visiting position at Queen's University Belfast, 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 was carried out for the Economic and Social Research Council, which is funding the UK in a Changing Europe project.

Survey findings included:

- Catholics were much more likely to support a united Ireland if there was a hard Brexit in which the UK left the customs union and single market.

- 28% of Catholics would vote for a united Ireland if the UK changed its mind and remained in the EU while 53% of Catholics would vote for a united Ireland if there was a hard exit in which the UK left the customs union and single market.

- 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%) 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.

- 61% of the population favoured the UK as a whole remaining in the customs union and single market.

Meanwhile, a separate poll has suggested that most people in Northern Ireland support the Union - around 60% - but the same number also believe that Brexit makes the break-up of the UK more likely.

A clear majority of people in the UK are in favour of the Union in its current form - including 59% in Northern Ireland, according to the the ICM poll. Only 23% of those questioned in Northern Ireland were 'against' the Union.

As think tank Policy Exchange hosts a major conference on the future of the Union, it revealed the results of a survey that suggested British identity is robust. DUP leader Arlene Foster is among those set to speak at Brexit vs the Union: A False Choice? in London.

The ICM poll also asked respondents "if there were a general election held tomorrow, which party would you vote for?"

Some 27% said they would vote DUP, 22% would vote Sinn Fein, 11% for SDLP and three per cent for 'others'. Four per cent would not vote and 10% did not know.

A clear majority of people in the UK say their support for the Union has remained constant or has risen in recent years - 78% in England, 60% in Scotland, 69% in Wales, 70% in Northern Ireland, the poll indicated.

However, there is concern across all nations - particularly in Northern Ireland - about the impact of Brexit on the Union.

Some 58% of people in England, 59% in Scotland, 54% in Wales and 60% in Northern Ireland believe that Brexit has made the break-up of the UK more likely.

And few people in Northern Ireland appear to believe that the Union will last in the long term. While 63% believe it will still exist in 10 years time, only 28% believe it will be around in 50 years time - and only 22% think it will survive another century.

Belfast Telegraph

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