BELFAST – A growing majority of voters in Northern Ireland support the region’s post-Brexit trade rules, large swathes of which the British government are currently moving to do away with, a survey showed on Wednesday.
Under the Northern Ireland protocol, the British-run region effectively remained in the EU’s single market for goods as the rest of the United Kingdom departed last year, necessitating checks on some goods coming from Britain.
The proportion of voters who think the protocol is the most appropriate means of managing the impact of Britain’s departure from the EU grew to 55% from 50% in February, the regular poll conducted for Queen’s University Belfast found.
It hit a previous high of 53% last October and stood at 46% when voters were polled for the first time in April 2021.
Britain has pledged override parts of the tailor-made deal it agreed with the EU if it cannot convince Brussels to remove the checks and legislation allowing it do so passed the first of many parliamentary tests on Monday.
Wednesday’s poll showed that most people oppose unilateral action by London and 74% think that a UK-EU negotiated settlement on easing some of the trade barriers is preferable.
The survey also showed the British government is by far the most distrusted of 10 groups voters were asked to assess their ability to manage the interests of Northern Ireland.
Just 4% trust Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government with 84% saying they distrust it. Voters in Northern Ireland are marginally more inclined to trust (47%) than distrust (43%) the European Commission.
“Many voters in Northern Ireland clearly continue to have genuine concerns about what the full operation of the Protocol would mean,” said Professor David Phinnemore, one of the project researchers, pointing to the 55% who have concerns about the protocol as it currently stands being implemented in full.
“Yet, this latest poll also shows support for the protocol edging upwards and almost two-thirds of respondents seeing economic opportunities in it.”
The polling was conducted from June 3-6 from a weighted sample of 1,497 respondents.