Give us the softest Brexit and a plague on all your houses! In Northern Ireland, the gap between people and politicians is wider than ever – latest North-South poll


It’s a snap shot in a febrile atmosphere I know, but who can be surprised?

A new poll from the Irish Times and Ipsos/MRBI – in fact parallel polls north and south – find that 59 per cent of Northern Ireland voters  want a special arrangement for Northern Ireland for no checks on the border – even if that means some checks on goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The poll also found that 67 per cent of voters support a very soft Brexit where the UK stays in the EU single market and the customs union, while the same number said the DUP is doing a bad job of representing Northern Ireland at Westminster.

Results in full

As the Irish Times report observes:

Asked if they wanted all of the UK to stay in the EU single market and customs union to ensure no hard border and no checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, two-thirds – 67 per cent – of voters agree, against just 17 per cent who disagree.

Broken down by community background, 52 per cent of those from a Protestant background agree, 81 per cent from a Catholic background agree, 83 per cent of those from another background and 65 per cent of those who gave no background also agreed.

In the case of a hard Brexit, more Northern voters prefer checks on goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, than favour checks on the border.

Asked if they want Northern Ireland to leave on the same terms as the rest of the UK even if it meant checks on the border, almost half of voters (48 per cent) disagree, with 35 per cent agreeing.

But asked if they want special arrangements for Northern Ireland to avoid border checks – even if it means checks on goods moving to the UK – 60 per cent of respondents agree, with 21 per cent disagreeing.

In other words the poll shows that in the event of a hard Brexit, more voters would favour checks on goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland than would favour checks on the Border.  Almost half of all voters (48 per cent) disagree with Northern Ireland leaving the EU on the same terms as the UK if it means border checks in Ireland.

Beyond the Brexit results, the striking factor is the increasing extent of cross community dissatisfaction with their own side. But abiding question remains – will it change the behaviour of the politicians or voters at elections?

Only 16% believe Arlene Foster is doing a good job and 20%,  DUP MPs at Westminster.  Michelle O’Neill scores 13%.   A resounding 79% believe the Assembly should be re-instated in spite of party differences and 60% support Sinn Fein taking their seats ( 40% are either opposed or don’t know)

Despite the republican attempts to start a Brexit stampede, opinion on the North on unity remains remarkably stable.

Just over a third of Northern voters want a referendum on Irish unity. If one was held, just 32 per cent would vote in favour of unity, while 45 per cent would vote against. The number in favour of unity rises to 58 per cent among voters from a Catholic background, with 18 per cent against and 24 per cent who say they don’t know.

In the Republic, the picture is different. Almost half of voters (49 per cent) say there should be a referendum on Irish unity, and if such a referendum was held, 62 per cent say they would vote in favour.

But then they know – sort of – that a referendum on unity isn’t imminent. I assume – but I’m not entirely clear – that southern voters were asked how they would themselves would vote in a concurrent referendum with a northern border poll and weren’t simply giving their separate  approval to a border poll alone.