Four out of five Irish voters say UK was wrong to leave EU

Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll shows huge commitment to Ireland’s membership of EU

Voters overwhelmingly believe that the UK was wrong to leave the European Union and remain highly committed to Ireland's membership of the EU, according to today's Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

As the Government wrestles with the potential implications for the North thrown up by the British exit, and Europe waits for a new British prime minister to be selected by the Conservative Party, Irish voters display a remarkable attachment to the EU, despite the shockwaves in Brussels caused by the Brexit result.

The Taoiseach has made clear in the wake of the result in the British referendum that the first priority of Irish foreign policy – committed involvement in the EU – would not change. Today’s poll suggests that view enjoys the endorsement of a huge majority of the electorate.

Asked if the UK was right or wrong to leave the EU, more than four out of five voters (81 per cent) said that the decision was wrong. Just 12 per cent said the UK was right, while 7 per cent said they didn’t know.


The “wrong” number was highest in Dublin, with 84 per cent of all respondents saying that the UK had made the wrong decision.

The youngest and the oldest voters were the most likely to say that the UK had made the wrong decision, with 84 per cent of 18-24 year-olds saying Britain had made the wrong decision, and 83 per cent of those aged 65 or over agreeing.

Small minority

The wealthiest AB voters were most likely to disagree with the UK’s decision, at 86 per cent, while amongst working class and lower income groups, voters were more likely to say that Britain had made the right decision. However, even here only a small minority of voters (14 per cent) believed that the UK had made the correct decision.

Labour (92 per cent) and Fine Gael (91 per cent) voters were the most anti-Brexit, with Sinn Féin voters most likely to say that the UK made the right decision. A quarter of Sinn Féin supporters (25 per cent) said that Britain was right, while two-thirds (67 per cent) disagreed.

Support for remaining a member of the EU closely mirrored views on the British decision to leave. Less than one in 10 voters (9 per cent) are in favour of following Britain out of the union, while a whopping majority (86 per cent) believe Ireland should stay in. Five per cent say they don't know.

Dublin is the most pro-EU region, with 90 per cent of respondents in favour of staying in. However the other regions – rest of Leinster and Munster at 85 per cent, Connacht-Ulster at 86 per cent – are hardly far behind.

Support for remaining in the EU rises from 85 per cent among the youngest voters to 89 per cent among the oldest.


There is a differential between the wealthiest voters, who favour remaining by 91 per cent to 7 per cent, but even among the least-enthusiastic social groups – the DE class – support for remaining is at 82 per cent, with just 11 per cent in favour of leaving the union.

Amongst the political parties’ supporters, Labour is the most pro-EU, with 96 per cent of the party’s declared voters saying that Ireland should remain a member.

However, there is not much in it: 93 per cent of Fine Gael voters and 91 per cent of Fianna Fáilers share their view.

Among supporters of Independents and small parties, support for remaining in the union is at 87 per cent, while Sinn Féiners are less enthusiastic: 78 per cent of the party’s declared supporters are in favour of remaining a member, with 16 per cent in favour of leaving.

EU chiefs and national governments fear the result of the Brexit referendum will strengthen anti-EU groups in several member states and weaken support for remaining in the EU. However, today’s poll suggests that the Irish view is exactly the opposite.

Last October a similar poll for The Irish Times asked, if Britain voted to leave the EU, whether Ireland should follow. Nearly three-quarters of respondents (74 per cent) then said that Ireland should stay in. Today, in the wake of the British decision to leave, the numbers in favour of staying have risen to 86 per cent. In Ireland at least, the threat to the union has strengthened people's attachment to it.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times