Survey shows no new appetite for a border poll, despite Brexit

Morning View
Morning View

Prior to Brexit there was widespread anxiety among unionists across the UK the impact of Britain quitting the EU on the kingdom itself.

David Cameron, George Osborne, John Major and Tony Blair were among those who expressed concerns about the possible inflaming of separatist feeling in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Some unionist politicians and commentators in this Province were also worried. The anxiety was understandable and may yet prove justified.

But anyone who supports the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has growing cause to breathe easy. It can now be said with confidence: if Brexit has increased support for nationalism, it is not making itself apparent quickly.

As reported last week, support for independence in Scotland seems from a recent major poll there to have barely increased at all since it was rejected by a margin of 55% to 45% in 2014.

Now a survey by the BBC finds that not much more than a fifth of Northern Irish people would back a united Ireland in a border poll, including less than half of Catholics.

These is disappointing data for nationalists. They also show that Enda Kenny was unwise to give succour to talk of a border poll before there any indication of grounds to justify one.

The Ipsos Mori survey for the BBC’s The View has found a significant number of people – 17% – who say Brexit has changed their thinking on the border, so there is no room for complacency among supporters of the Union. But the rush for Irish passports that followed June’s referendum result seems not to have translated into a major boost for unity. It has led to a noticeable increase in support for it among Catholics – up 8% – but not Protestants, only 5% of whom now back such a move.

This diverging tribal response to Brexit is not ideal for community relations, but it could have been much more stark.

Now that separatism is less of a distraction than it might have been, there is a chance for everyone to play a part in the debate about how the UK gets the best deal for life outside the EU, and one which has minimal impact on the Irish border.