The majority of the people in the UK fear that European Union meddling in trade between Britain and Northern Ireland threatens the peace and stability of the Province, according to a startling new opinion poll.
According to the survey, an overwhelming 57 per cent of people say that the EU’s insistence on checking goods destined for Northern Ireland from the mainland risks reigniting the Troubles brought to an end by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement after nearly 50 years of strife and bloodshed.
Only 19 per cent of people disagreed and among those claiming the most knowledge about the complex new arrangements put in place after Brexit, nearly three quarters saw renewed strife ahead.
The poll, commissioned by the cross-party think tank the Centre for Brexit Policy (CBP) and conducted by Savanta ComRes, reveals deep public anxiety about the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) – a part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement that gives Brussels the right to check goods flowing from the UK mainland into the Province because under the terms of the treaty, Northern Ireland remains in the EU’s single market.
The poll finds that a majority of Leave voters (57 per cent) believe the Protocol is being used as a backdoor way to frustrate Brexit. Most remarkably, even many Remain voters hold this stance, with 40 per cent agreeing the NIP prevents a proper Brexit, while only 13 per cent of Remainers disagreed.
Similarly, the poll also finds that half (50 per cent) of all UK adults believe it is unfair that Northern Ireland is being treated differently from the rest of the UK, compared to only 22 per cent taking a contrary view.
Owen Paterson, the former Northern Ireland Secretary and Chairman of the CBP, said the poll should serve as a wake-up call to Conservative ministers and MPs:
“The polling shows that the British people understand that the NIP radically changes the status of Northern Ireland and is threatening its stability. Nobel peace prize winner and architect of the Belfast Agreement Lord Trimble has said consistently that the NIP breaches the principle of consent that the status of Northern Ireland cannot change without the consent of the people.
“Lord Trimble is an advocate of mutual enforcement as a solution which would guarantee the sovereignty of the UK and the integrity of the EU Single Market.”
Sammy Wilson, a DUP MP and Director the CBP, said he was heartened by the results of the poll:
“The good sense of the British people is winning through and not for the first time. For all the smoke and mirrors of politicians and officials in the Republic of Ireland and Brussels, the public know that the hidden agenda here is to use the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland as a way of wrecking Brexit. They must not be allowed to get away with it.
“They also know that hard-line advocates of the Protocol are playing with fire. Northern Ireland is an integral part of the UK and foreign powers should not be allowed to interfere with trade within a sovereign state.”
The poll follows significant discontent in Northern Ireland over the NIP in recent months, which has resulted in shortages of certain products in the shops, as well as reports of EU bans on things such as exports of chilled meats such as sausages, and British soil and pets entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
Despite claims in certain quarters that the British people are indifferent to the Union’s survival, the poll reveals that a majority of voters think it is important that Northern Ireland remains in the UK, with 53 per cent saying important versus 12 per cent against. Broken down further into Brexit groups, the poll finds 65 per cent of Leave voters see this objective as important, compared to half (49 per cent) of those who voted Remain.
Asked if the NIP is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, a third (31 per cent) say it breaches the Agreement, while just 20 per cent say it does not (48 per cent do not know). However, when only those knowledgeable about the Protocol were asked, 47 per cent agree it breaches the Agreement versus 26 per cent disagreeing.
Other findings include:
- 32 per cent of people oppose the NIP’s ban on government subsidies to firms in Great Britain that do not trade with Northern Ireland (21 per cent support).
- 50 per cent of people consider themselves to be knowledgeable about the Protocol.
Savanta ComRes interviewed 2,176 UK adults between July 2-4, 2021. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of UK adults.ENDS