Irish Times poll: Public divided on approach to Brexit

Better-off voters more likely to approve of Government performance on issue,

Brexit Vlad

Farmers (55%) and voters in the Connacht-Ulster region (49%) are the most likely to prioritise the Border.


Voters are divided on the Government’s approach to Brexit, the Border issue and its future approach to the negotiations, the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll has found.

Almost four in 10 voters (39 per cent) say that the Government is doing a good job on Brexit, but a third (33 per cent) disagree, saying the Government is not doing a good job. Almost as many (29 per cent) say they are not sure.

Better-off voters are more likely to approve of the Government’s performance on Brexit, as are voters in Dublin. Urban voters in general have a better view of the Government’s performance.

Other questions show similar divisions. Asked if the Border is the most important issue, 45 per cent of respondents agree, but 42 per cent disagree, with 14 per cent declining to express a position.

Farmers (55 per cent) and voters in the Connacht-Ulster region (49 per cent) are the most likely to prioritise the Border.

Just under a third (32 per cent) of voters expect there to be a hard border, but more voters (42 per cent) say they expect Brexit to result in a soft border. Just over a quarter (26 per cent) say they do not know.

Voters are almost evenly divided on the best approach to the Brexit negotiations in the coming weeks.

Asked the following question: “If there is no progress on the Border issue, should the Government insist that the EU halts negotiations with the UK, or should it let negotiations continue?” In response 40 per cent of those polled favour halting the negotiations while 41 per cent say the negotiations should continue.

The Government has repeatedly threatened to block progress on the withdrawal treatment if it does not see sufficient progress on dealing with the Border issues before the June summit of EU leaders.

At present, the Government expects the British government to advance new proposals for some sort of customs partnership in the coming weeks. At that point the Irish Government will have to decide whether these proposals form a basis for future progress to ensure a soft border, or whether to insist that the UK comes up with a viable text for the “backstop” agreement before June.


The backstop agreement, agreed by the British prime minister Theresa May last December and confirmed at the most recent summit of European leaders in March, promises to maintain the same regulations for trade and customs on both sides of the Border even if there is no agreement between the EU and the UK on ways to avoid a hard border.

At the time Ms May also pledged to unionists in the North that any plan would maintain the UK’s single market. When the EU produced a draft wording that would have kept the North effectively in the EU customs union, it was rejected out of hand by Ms May, though the British government remains committed to the principle of maintaining a soft border with no new barriers or infrastructure.

Yesterday in Sofia, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stuck a tough note, saying that the Withdrawal Agreement could be in jeopardy with progress on Border issues. However, the poll suggests that public opinion is divided on the Government’s approach.

Previously, the Government saw a boost in its fortunes after securing the British agreement to the backstop at the December summit, so the apprehension as seen in the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll about the Government’s approach is likely to cause concern in Government Buildings.

Ministers are also likely to note that while the Government has made the Border its red-line issue in the Brexit talks, public opinion is more equivocal. In addition, voters are clearly unsure about the wisdom of holding the Brexit talks hostage on the Border issue.

The poll was conducted on Monday and Tuesday of this week in face-to-face interviews among a nationally representative sample of 1,200 eligible voters. Interviewing took place at 120 sampling points across all constituencies. The accuracy level is estimated to be about plus or minus 2.8 per cent.