Irish voters want Brexit focus on jobs, not relations with UK

Survey finds more concern with economy than hard Border

Irish voters want the negotiations on Brexit to focus on economic issues, jobs and the future of the EU, more than any special relationship with the UK, according to a new survey.

Concerns about future prosperity and growth also rank higher with voters in the Republic than the future relationship with Northern Ireland or the possibility of a hard border, the survey for the EPP group in the European Parliament indicates.

However, seven out of 10 Irish people say it is important the Belfast Agreement is not undermined by the deal reached on Brexit. The importance people attach to the agreement falls off with age, from 79 per cent among over 55-year-olds to 53 per cent in the 18-34 year-old group.

Voters in the Republic are more worried about economics issues and jobs than on the challenges posed by Brexit to Northern Ireland, the survey indicates.


Sixty per cent say they are worried about our future prosperity and economic growth and 54 per cent expressed concern over jobs and employment. In contrast, 41 per cent are worried about the possibility of a hard border, or the relationship with Northern Ireland.

About 1,000 people in nine EU states including Ireland were surveyed by Red C for the poll last week. It was commissioned by the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), which includes Fine Gael.

Two-thirds of us feel the EU should work closer together to protect Irish interests, with Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Social Democrats more likely to adhere to this view and Sinn Féin and Green less likely to agree.

Some 78 per cent of EU citizens want the Brexit negotiations to focus mainly on protecting the “good future” of the remaining 27 members of the Union, compared to just 22 per cent who say the focus should be on building a new economic relationship with the UK and giving it special conditions post-Brexit.

This emphasis on the future of the EU rather than relationships with the UK is consistent across the nine member states, though least pronounced in Ireland and Sweden.

Nine out of 10 EU citizens say they want the negotiations to protect the economies of the remaining member states, enhance financial markets and ensure financial stability and focus on the longer-term interest of the Union rather than any short-term gains. In contrast, just 55 per cent say the negotiations should prioritise the future wellbeing of the UK economy.

And while EU citizens are primarily concerned with future economic interests post-Brexit, 88 per cent of people across the Union - and 87 per cent in Ireland - also say the negotiations should ensure the UK pays any outstanding financial obligations to the EU.

Some 93 per cent of Irish voters are concerned to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK post-Brexit, the highest level for any EU country.

Asked what the focus should be for the EU following Brexit, 92 per cent of people across the member states identify economic growth and job creation as a priority, and 93 per cent keeping money safe/financial stability. Other priorities are increased counter-terrorism integration (92 per cent), research and innovation (90 per cent), protection against unfair competition in a globalised world economy (89 per cent) and a closer defence union (85 per cent).

However, concerns about economic and financial issues are strongest in Ireland, where 98 per cent of people want the EU to focus on economic growth and jobs and 97 per cent on financial stability.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times