Poll finds majority of Northern Irish voters back a backstop to stay close to the EU

PUBLISHED: 10:23 19 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:40 19 August 2019

Traffic crossing the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the village of Bridgend, Co Donegal. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA.

Traffic crossing the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the village of Bridgend, Co Donegal. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

A poll has found that three out of five voters in Northern Ireland would prefer a border down the Irish sea with the European Union over a hard Brexit.

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The survey carried out by market research company LucidTalk asked people how they would vote in a referendum that proposed Northern Ireland remaining closely aligned to the European Union "perhaps staying in the single market and the customs union".

A total of 58.4% said they would vote in favour of a "border in the Irish Sea" to remain closely aligned with the European Union rather than Great Britain.

It found 39.5% would reject the compromise, with 2.1% saying that they did not know.

An overwhelming majority of Alliance and Green Party voters backed the proposal to prevent large job losses and a shock to the economy.

Unionist voters were the most opposed to the idea with just one in six supporting the backstop, 94% of Democratic Unionists disagreeing with the idea, and 69% of Ulster Unionists rejecting the proposal.

The backstop was originally intended for just Northern Ireland to avoid a hard border during a "transition period" in any deal agreed with the EU, but after DUP objections now relates to the entirety of the UK.

It is therefore opposed by the DUP, a majority of Tories and prime minister Boris Johnson, but appears to put the DUP out of step with Northern Irish voters.

However one DUP MP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said that the poll does not "accurately reflect opinion" in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph.

"Their polling methods are not reflective of the wider community, especially on the unionist side.

MORE: ANDREW ADONIS: In praise of the backstop - Theresa May's greatest triumph

MORE: The Irish backstop: The tragedy of Brexit's broken border

"In contrast to the panel of people that they poll, the people that I talk to in my own constituency do not share that view at all.

"A clear majority of them would not support Northern Ireland being separated from the UK."

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson said that it was time to acknowledge "the vast majority of people in the north voted against Brexit".

"Opinion poll after opinion poll has shown that the majority are in support of a pathway back into the EU," she said.

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