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Majority of NI voters are in favour of the Protocol: poll

Support for controversial arrangement is on the rise with 8% increase from a year ago 


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Support for the Northern Ireland Protocol is rising with a clear majority of voters viewing it as appropriate for managing the impact of Brexit here, according to a new opinion poll.

Some 55% of people agree that the protocol is a suitable arrangement — up 8% from a year ago — with 38% disagreeing.

Three-quarters of people want to see a UK-EU negotiated settlement to the outstanding issues around the protocol with 57% believing the government is unjustified in taking unilateral action to scrap parts of it.

The LucidTalk poll for Queen’s University, Belfast shows that 55% of voters believe that Brussels would be justified in taking retaliatory action if London does act unilaterally.

Some 55% of people think the protocol is having a positive impact on the Northern Ireland economy and 65% believe it offers unique opportunities that could benefit us.

While the most positive views were on the protocol’s economic advantages, the greatest concerns were over its political implications — with 59% of voters believing it is having a negative impact on political stability here and on relations between the UK and Irish Republic.

Almost six in 10 people don’t think Brexit is “a good thing” for the UK.

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Exactly half of voters see the protocol as positive for the Good Friday Agreement whilst 38% view it as having a negative impact on the historic peace deal.

Some 46% of voters believe the protocol is harming Northern Ireland’s constitutional place in the UK.

Just over a third (36%) have no concerns about the full operational scope and impact of the protocol.

However, 55% do have such concerns if the protocol was to be fully implemented with no adjustment after the grace periods.

Customs declarations for parcels is the issue of most concern (55%) followed by restrictions on plants and seeds and chilled meats being brought into Northern Ireland from Britain and requirements for bringing in pets.

The issue of least concern is Northern Ireland aligning with Brussels’ standards for the production of goods, followed by the application of EU rules on subsidy control and state aid.

Just over a third (35%) of people said British food products they used to buy are no longer available where they usually shop but 41% said they were.

Slightly over a quarter of people (26%) said their national identity — British or Irish — is reflected in the food products they choose to buy whereas 54% said it wasn’t.

Only one in 10 people said they’d rather pay more for a product from Britain than buy one made elsewhere but almost three-quarters (72%) disagreed.

Eight in 10 people said that, if all else were equal, they would prefer to buy a Northern Ireland-made product to one produced elsewhere.

The poll was conducted from June 3-6 with 1,497 people taking part. It was scientifically weighted to reflect the electorate.

It is the fifth poll conduct for Queen’s as part of a three year (2021-2023) Economic and Social Research Council-funded research project.

It showed the protocol continues to be deeply divisive issue with only a small proportion of respondents having no opinion on it.

The Government, led by Boris Johnson, was by far the least trusted of all the key actors in the ongoing controversy.

Some 84% of people they distrusted it with just 5% saying they had trust in London.

Voters were marginally more inclined to trust (47%) than distrust (43%) the European Commission/EU.

They were also slightly more inclined to trust (45%) than distrust (42%) the Irish government.

Trust in the Executive to manage Northern Ireland’s interests regarding the protocol was strikingly low at 19%.

The most trusted local political party was Alliance (50%) followed by the SDLP (43%).

Levels of distrust were highest for the DUP (68%) and Sinn Fein (50%).

The protocol mattered for most voters in May’s Assembly election, although a quarter said a candidate’s position didn’t influence what candidate they supported.

Some 52% of people favour MLAs voting for the continued application of the protocol with 40% wanting Stormont representatives to oppose it.

The principal Investigator of the Queen’s project, Professor David Phinnemore said: “Many voters in Northern Ireland clearly continue to have genuine concerns about what the full operation of the protocol would mean.

"Yet, this latest poll also shows support for the protocol edging upwards and almost two-thirds of respondents seeing economic opportunities in it.

"Also it’s clear that voters would much prefer outstanding issues between the UK and the EU to be resolved through agreement and not unilateral action by the UK Government.”

Co-investigator Professor Katy Hayward, said: “People in Northern Ireland have clear views on the protocol and in some cases those views are strongly divided.

"But one of the things they agree most on (77%) is that the UK and EU should jointly present factual information on the protocol. The lack of agreement from the UK and EU as to the actual meaning and problems of the protocol is clearly exacerbating the divisive effects of the topic on the ground in Northern Ireland,” she added.

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