Belfast Telegraph

Conservatives would cut Northern Ireland loose from UK to deliver Brexit: poll

By David Hughes

Well over half of Conservative Party members would be prepared to sacrifice Northern Ireland to get the UK out of the European Union, a new poll has suggested.

And a fifth of grassroots Tories would be prepared to ditch Northern Ireland even if there was no Brexit debate, a YouGov survey of party members found.

Party members would rather destroy the Union, their party and suffer economic damage to ensure Brexit happens, according to the poll of the people who will decide the next prime minister.

Some 59% would prioritise leaving the EU even if it meant Northern Ireland breaking away from the rest of the UK, and 54% would accept the Tory party "being destroyed" in order to secure Brexit.

The survey also found 26% of Tory members would be happy to see Scotland leave the UK, as would 20% if Northern Ireland left, regardless of the Brexit issue.

It suggests that almost half (46%) would be happy to see the Brexit Party's Nigel Farage as their new leader.

Despite the strong support for Brexit, even if it had major repercussions, Tory members indicated they would be prepared to call it off rather than see Jeremy Corbyn enter Number 10.

Some 61% would rather Brexit took place even if it caused "significant damage" to the economy.

But only 39% of the members who responded to the question said they would want Brexit to take place if it meant Labour leader Mr Corbyn becoming the next prime minister, with 51% saying they would rather the UK did not leave the EU in order to avoid that happening.

Gary Hynds, deputy chairman on political issues for the Northern Ireland Conservatives, said the poll results don't represent what he is hearing in the party, although he admitted that "it is disappointing that colleagues think that way".

However, he criticised the way the question was framed, saying that "Brexit doesn't have to mean Northern Ireland leaving the UK", and staying in the UK doesn't mean staying in the European Union.

The DUP did not respond to a request for comment, despite the party's close ties to the Conservatives, who rely on the votes of its 10 MPs to keep them in power.

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."

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