Almost four out of five Northern Ireland Leavers put Brexit above peace process

Arlene Foster ahead of meeting with Michel Barnier says EU must respect 2016 referendum result

Almost four out of five people in Northern Ireland who voted Leave in the British EU referendum would view the collapse of the Northern peace process as a price worth paying for Brexit, a new survey has found.

The new research from the universities of Edinburgh and Cardiff found that "self-professed unionists, most notably Leave-voting Conservatives, were largely unconcerned about the risks to the union posed by Brexit".

The survey, which was conducted under The Future of England Study, the largest and longest-running study of English constitutional attitudes available, uncovered what the researchers described as "attitudes to the union marked principally by rivalry and mutual indifference".

The findings were published as DUP leader Arlene Foster prepares to meet the European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels on Tuesday. Ahead of the meeting Ms Foster said the Brexit poll result "must be respected".


The Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann is to hold a separate meeting with Mr Barnier on Tuesday.

The surveys found that 87 per cent of Leave voters in Northern Ireland, who are overwhelmingly unionist, see the collapse of the peace process as an acceptable price for Brexit. Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU by a majority of 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

The surveys were conducted for the two universities by YouGov in England, Wales and Scotland and Lucid Talk in Northern Ireland between May 30th and June 4th this year. A total of 1,089 adults were surveyed in Northern Ireland, 2,741 in England, 2,016 in Wales and 1,502 in Scotland.

Highest percentage

Northern Ireland recorded the highest percentage of Leavers as favouring Brexit above the peace. The question posed was, “Price worth paying for Brexit: peace in NI”.

The surveys found that 84 per cent of Leavers in Wales, 83 per cent in England and 73 per cent in Scotland put Brexit ahead of the peace process.

The same question was posed to those who voted to stay in the EU.

Just one in 100 of Northern Ireland Remainers viewed Brexit as more important than peace, while 10 per cent of Remainers in England and Wales and 12 per cent in Scotland put implementing Brexit about the peace process.

The surveys also found that clear majorities of English Conservatives would support Scottish independence (79 per cent) or the collapse of the peace process (75 per cent) as the price of Brexit.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times