Unionists in NI need to be vigilant about losing support in GB

A survey of Conservative Party member has shown troublingly low levels of support for Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The YouGov poll of Tory members found that in a choice between Brexit, and Northern Ireland staying in the UK, 59% would prefer to see Brexit.

The findings also showed that 20% would be happy to see Northern Ireland split from Great Britain in any event.

However, Tory members did not prize Brexit above every other scenario. They were found to be more determined to prevent Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister than seeing the UK depart from the European Union (39% opted for Brexit, while 51% saw keeping Corbyn out of Downing Street as a higher priority).

The findings need to be treated with caution. After all, there is no simple binary choice between any of the two options that were put to members in each of the poll questions.

And even if there was, there is no guarantee that people’s final preferred decision when faced with such set of two possible outcomes would, on lengthy reflection, be the same as their initial one. But it would be wrong to dismiss the findings out of hand.

Unionists in Northern Ireland need to be ever vigilant about losing sympathy in Great Britain. If that happens, the Union is doomed, given that the mainland funds us lavishly.

Also, the Irish (and indeed the EU) have spotted that the complications surrounding the Northern Ireland border with the Republic are a weak link in Britain’s negotiating position with Brussels. By insisting on the backstop, they are aware that one solution for London would be to cut NI adrift.

Support for Scotland leaving the UK is fractionally higher among Tories than for NI, perhaps because the former is perceived as ungrateful for the financial support that it gets.

It is important that we are not seen as grasping or ungrateful, which is why it is so important that the DUP made clear it was not seeking money to back the Withdrawal Agreement.