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Shock poll finds 87% of Northern Ireland leave voters say peace process collapse price worth paying for Brexit

By Gareth Cross

A new poll has claimed that the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland who voted leave in the Brexit referendum would be willing to see the peace process collapse to deliver Brexit.

'The Future of England Study' from the Universities of Cardiff and Edinburgh found that 87% of NI's leave voters would see the collapse of the peace process as an acceptable price for Brexit. 

It also found that 75% of English Conservatives would support the collapse of the peace process as long as Brexit is delivered.

The polls were conducted by YouGov in England and Lucid Talk in Northern Ireland between 30 May and June 4 2018.

It questioned 2,741 people in England, 2,016, 1,502 in Scotland and 1,089 in Northern Ireland.

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Northern Ireland voted against Brexit by 56% to 44%, but the whole of the United Kingdom is set to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019 as the overall result of the Brexit referendum was 51.8% leave to 48.1% remain.  

The negotiations between the UK Government and the European Union over the Brexit withdrawal process have been beset by difficulties over the Irish border.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton warned that the return of infrastructure to the Irish border could make border posts a target for dissident republican violence.

The Northern Ireland peace process was the result of years of attempts to find a solution to Northern Ireland's Troubles, culminating in the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Stormont collapsed in January 2017 when then deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned over the RHI scandal, Northern Ireland has now been without government for over 600 days. 

The study found that 79% of English Conservatives would support Scottish Independence and that in none of the UK's nations are a majority of taxpayers happy to see their taxes spent in other parts of the UK.

Professor Ailsa Henderson led the project alongside Professor Richard Wyn Jones.

Professor Henderson said that the research showed that unionists were more interested in Brexit than maintaining the Union.

“The data suggest that, in the pursuit of Brexit, Leave supporters across the UK would be relaxed about a fundamental transformation of the Union but this attitude is not confined exclusively to Leave voters," she said.

"There is also evidence that Brexit is dislodging long-held red lines about the Union.  If even Unionists in Northern Ireland care less about the territorial integrity of the UK than pursuing Brexit, then it really raises questions about the type of union we’re in, and indeed what Unionism means."

Professor Wyn Jones said that the research showed that Brexit was shining a spotlight on the union's issues.

“An overwhelming majority of Conservative voters in England would prefer to see Scotland become independent and a breakdown of the peace process in Northern Ireland rather than compromise on their support for Brexit. But it’s not just Brexit. Half of English Conservative supporters want to stop Scottish MPs from sitting in the British cabinet altogether," he said.

“The bonds that have tied the Union together have frayed to such an extent that, frankly, it’s hard to imagine that the proposed festival of ‘national renewal’ is going to do anything more than emphasise the extent to which we continue to drift apart.”

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