BELFAST -A slim majority of voters in Northern Ireland view its post-Brexit trade arrangements as being on balance a “good thing” for the British-run region, a sharp increase in the last four months, a poll showed on Thursday.
While remaining part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland has stayed in the European Union’s single market for goods since Britain’s departure, meaning its exports to the rest of the 27-nation bloc face no customs checks, tariffs or paperwork.
However difficulties in sending some British goods to Northern Ireland have angered pro-British unionists in the divided province and prompted London to repeatedly call for widespread changes to the Northern Ireland protocol.
The number of respondents who agreed or strongly agreed that the protocol is on balance a “good thing” for Northern Ireland rose to 52% from 43% in both June and March, the regular poll conducted for Queen’s University Belfast found.
That compared to 41% who disagreed or strongly disagreed that the protocol is a good thing, while 6% of respondents described themselves as being neutral.
A larger majority – 67% – believe that the particular arrangements for Northern Ireland are needed to manage the effects of Brexit.
The survey was carried out from Oct. 8 to 11, before the EU offered Britain a package of measures it said could halve customs paperwork, cut checks on meat, dairy and other British food products by 80% and ensure the undisturbed flow of medicines.
The survey’s authors noted that opinion remains divided on the arrangements.
While slightly more respondents view the protocol as being positive than negative in protecting the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement, a clear majority believed it is negatively impacting Northern Ireland’s constitutional place in the United Kingdom and in the UK’s internal market.
A majority of respondents said that London would not be justified in carrying through with threats to trigger safeguard measures in the deal if the EU fails to agree to major changes.
The role of the European Court of Justice in settling disputes under the protocol was also low on voters’ list of concerns. London has made removing EU judicial oversight one of its key demands.
Citing the poll, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Twitter that the protocol would work “if we allow it to, with flexibility and pragmatism”.