Survey shows even bigger majority now backs trade deal despite DUP anger
A majority of people here view the Northern Ireland Protocol as a positive for the region, a new poll has found.
The survey conducted for Queen’s University Belfast revealed 52% of respondents consider the post-Brexit arrangement to be a “good thing”.
That figure has increased from 43% in June.
The opinion poll result comes as DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson renewed his threat to collapse Stormont unless progress was made over the Irish Sea border.
Sir Jeffrey said he was still prepared to trigger an early election after previously stating the party could walk away from the Assembly by November.
“It is welcome that the Prime Minister wants to see rapid progress and recognises that the conditions to trigger Article 16 have already been met,” he said.
“If Brussels is not prepared the make the kind of changes envisaged in the July command paper, then it is time for the Government to act unilaterally and protect this part of the United Kingdom in line with its (New Decade, New Approach) commitment.
“If the Government fails to act, then I will have no option but ask the people of Northern Ireland to make their voice heard at the ballot box.”
The poll is the latest commissioned to monitor local attitudes towards Brexit, particularly the trade arrangements that have created economic barriers with Britain.
The online survey conducted by LucidTalk at the start of October was the third such poll undertaken since the protocol came into effect at the start of the year.
While the results show that the trading mechanism continues to sharply divide opinion, it also indicates a growing acceptance of it.
It found 53% of the 2,682 voters sampled now agree or strongly agree that the protocol is an appropriate means for managing the effects of Brexit here.
In June’s survey, this figure was 46%.
The protocol was agreed by the UK and EU as a way to ensure the Irish land border remained free-flowing post-Brexit.
It achieves that by moving regulatory and customs checks to local ports.
London and Brussels are currently locked in negotiations in an attempt to redraw aspects of the protocol and cut some of the red tape it has created on trade with Britain.
Many loyalists and unionists are vehemently opposed to the protocol, claiming it has weakened Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the UK.
Amid the threat from the DUP to pull down power-sharing at Stormont if major changes were not secured, the Government had threatened to unilaterally suspend part of the protocol by triggering Article 16 if talks with the EU end in failure.
Asked if the UK would be justified in triggering Article 16 now, 53% of respondents said no and 39% said yes.
The protocol offers businesses here unrestricted access to sell in the UK internal market and EU single market.
In response to the question as to whether the protocol provides Northern Ireland with a unique set of circumstances that could benefit the region, 62% said yes — an increase on the 57% who agreed in June’s poll and the 50% in March’s survey.
Respondents were also asked to rank their specific concerns about the protocol.
Supply of medicines from Britain and additional customs paperwork on Irish Sea trade were the main issues of concern.
While London has insisted that removing the oversight role of the European Court of Justice in the protocol is a red line demand in the negotiations, those polled indicated this issue was not a priority concern for them.