Belfast Telegraph

Leave voters would choose Brexit over Union with Northern Ireland, poll finds

By Andrew Woodcock

Almost three-quarters of Conservative Leave voters would choose to leave the EU even if it meant breaking up the United Kingdom, according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted for former Tory treasurer Lord Ashcroft, found that a majority of voters in Northern Ireland believe that Brexit has made unification with the Republic more likely in the foreseeable future.

And the poll found a majority of just five points in the six counties for staying in the UK, with 49% saying they would vote for the Union and 44% for Irish unification if a referendum was held now.

When Leave voters were asked whether they would choose to leave the EU or to keep the four parts of the UK together if it was not possible to have both, some 63% opted for Brexit, compared with 27% for maintaining the Union.

Among Conservative Leavers, the margin stretched to 73% for Brexit and 22% for holding the UK together.

The poll of more than 6,000 voters across the UK and Ireland found that people in all areas believe Brexit has made unification more likely.

Some 59% in Northern Ireland - including 94% of Catholics - said it was more likely, compared with 10% saying it was less likely. In the Republic, the figures were 41% more likely and 23% less and in Britain the split was 27%-7%.

However, enthusiasm for a swift move to a unified Ireland was limited in the Republic, with 56% saying they favour the idea in principle but fear it would not be practical or affordable in the next few years.

Some 35% said they would like unification to happen within a few years and just 9% opposed it outright.

More than seven out of 10 of those questioned in the Republic said they were unhappy the UK was leaving the EU and three-quarters said Britain had made the wrong decision for its own interests.

More than half said Brexit would make the relationship between Ireland and Northern Ireland more distant and two-thirds said the same was true of the Republic's relations with the UK.

In Northern Ireland, nearly two-thirds said a hard border was likely to create division and provoke paramilitary action.

- In Northern Ireland 1,666 adults were interviewed online between May 24-28. In England, Scotland and Wales 3,294 adults were interviewed online between May 29-31. In the Republic of Ireland, 1,500 adults were interviewed online between May 31 and June 5.

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