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Poll: Most Tory members would sacrifice Northern Ireland for Brexit

59% of Tory members would rather see Northern Ireland split from the UK if it secured Brexit. (Yui Mok/PA)
59% of Tory members would rather see Northern Ireland split from the UK if it secured Brexit. (Yui Mok/PA)
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

The majority of Tory members would rather see the break up of the Union than Brexit not taking place, according to new research.

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A survey of 892 Conservative Party members by YouGov found that 59% would prefer to see Northern Ireland split from the UK if it secured Brexit, while 63% would rather see Scotland become independent.

The research comes as the future of Brexit is looking increasingly uncertain, with the Tories currently in the process of selecting a new leader and another Brexit deadline on the horizon in October.

One of the first tasks of the future Conservative leader and Prime Minister will be securing the support of the DUP, who are keeping the party in government through a confidence-and-supply arrangement.

The future of the Union is a cornerstone of the DUP's Brexit stance, with their opposition to the controversial backstop rooted in fears it would lead to Northern Ireland being treated differently than the rest of the UK.

The YouGov research also found that a majority of Conservative members would rather see the destruction of the party than the UK staying in the EU, and significant damage to the UK economy.

According to the survey, the only situation that members would tolerate the UK remaining is if it prevented Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister.

YouGov's Matthew Smith said: "Conservative members are not just ideologically committed to Brexit - they also genuinely believe that the failure to deliver on the result of the 2016 referendum will bring about the destruction of the party's electoral chances.

"Indeed, half (51%) of members believe that Britain ending up staying in the EU after all would damage the party to the extent that it will never lead a government again, and another 29% think it would put the party out of power for multiple elections to come.

"By contrast, most members believe that successfully bringing about Brexit will win the Tories at least the next election."

While the Conservatives require the support of the DUP to stay in Government, there have been claims Arlene Foster's party is holding up Brexit.

Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski, who is supporting leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson, told BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday News show that if Mr Johnson becomes Prime Minister, he has an opportunity to win a general election to ensure the Government is "not at the beck and call of the DUP".

"I have to be careful what I say about the DUP because hitherto if I've been critical of them then noises are made back here at Westminster," he said.

"We have still not left the European Union, in part because the DUP absolutely categorically refused to contemplate the Northern Ireland backstop."

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