Faha’s take on Lucid Talk’s most recent poll on Brexit and a Border Poll
In the previous 2 weeks there has been much publicity over the pending part 2 negotiations between the EU and the UK government. The 3 issues that needed to be resolved before moving from part 1 to part 2 were the size of the UK monetary settlement that the UK would owe to the EU, EU citizen rights within the UK, and the nature of the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland-Irish border proved to be the most contentious issue but after much controversy the issue was fudged and negotiations will proceed from part 1 to part 2 next week.
What received little publicity during this past week was the release of a Lucid Talk poll on Brexit and a Border Poll. A previous poll on this had been done in October so why was another done so soon? Apparently the GUE/NGL group within the EU parliament commissioned Lucid Talk to conduct a poll on Brexit and a Border Poll in order to determine the current views of Northern Ireland voters on these issues. The EU needs this information in order to develop a negotiating strategy based on the wishes of the population of Northern Ireland. What the EU already knows is that Northern Ireland, in the June 2016 Brexit referendum, voted 56% Remain and 44% Leave. Apparently they wish to confirm if there have been any changes in the view of Northern Ireland voters.
The poll was commissioned by the GUE/NGL parliamentary group and conducted by Lucid Talk. Over 3,000 voters from the Lucid Talk panel responded and a final total of almost 2,100 was included based on the demographics of Northern Ireland. The following were some of the more significant results.
One question asked was whether Northern Ireland should have a special status which would include remaining in the EU Customs Union and EU Single Market. The results for all voters were:
Special Status-Stay in EU Customs Union and EU Single Market
No Opinion 2.5%
Results by Political Party Nationalist Unionist Other
Yes 97.7% 12.0% 87.7%
No 1.7% 83.7% 9.5%
Results by Religion Catholic Protestant Other/None
Yes 94.8% 21.7% 67.3%
No 4.6% 74.0% 30.5%
Obviously there is huge difference between Nationalist- Alliance/Green voters and Unionist voters with the former 2 groups overwhelmingly in favour of Special Status and Unionist voters overwhelmingly opposed. Not surprisingly, Catholic voters overwhelmingly prefer Special Status and Other/None favour Special Status by a 2 to 1 margin. There is a significant percentage of Protestant voters, 21.7%, who also prefer Special Status. The 74% of Protestants who oppose Special Status is exactly the same percentage that voted Leave in the Brexit Referendum. Overall, less than 40% of all voters are opposed to Special Status while 57.8% are in favour. The percentage in favour of Special Status is slightly higher than the 56% of voters who voted Remain in the Brexit Referendum.
A question on a Border Poll was also asked. Voters were asked how they would vote if there was a Hard Brexit with no deal on the Border or the Good Friday agreement or citizen (? EU citizen) rights. The 2 choices were Remain in the EU by joining the Irish Republic in a United Ireland or Leave the EU and stay in the UK. The results were (excluding nonvoters)
Remain in EU-United Ireland
Leave the EU-Stay in the UK
Results by Political Party Nationalist Unionist Other
Remain in EU-United Ireland 94.5% 2.2% 56.9%
Leave the EU-Stay in the UK 1.9% 95.0% 14.5%
Undecided 3.6% 2.4% 25.1%
Results by Religion Catholic Protestant Other
Remain in EU-United Ireland 90.0% 8.1% 54.9%
Leave the EU-Stay in the UK 5.1% 85.3% 33.7%
Undecided 4.8% 5.6% 10.2%
Results by Age 18 to 44 45+
Remain in EU-United Ireland 57.1% 37.8%
Leave the EU-Stay in the UK 37.4% 54.4%
Undecided 4.9% 7.2%
What is remarkable is that there is a plurality of 2.5% who are in favour of a United Ireland with a Hard Brexit. No previous poll in the previous 100 years has ever shown this result.
However, in the October Lucid Talk poll they estimated a 46.4% vote in favour of a United Ireland with a Hard Brexit and 53.6% to Remain the UK. What has changed since the October poll is that most of the Undecided (10%) and Soft Remainers (5.5%) have opted for a United Ireland which is consistent with their preference with a Hard Brexit. The preference for a United Ireland had a base of 34% with a Soft Brexit or no Brexit. There was another group of soft Remainers (10%) who were not further questioned in October on their preferences with a Hard Brexit and some of these appear to be undecided with a Hard Brexit.
The breakdown by Religion and political party is unsurprising when looking at the unionist-nationalist and Catholic-Protestant preferences. However, support for a United Ireland among Protestants has increased from 4.6% to 8.1% because most of the Protestant undecided have opted for a United Ireland with a Hard Brexit. There has also been a significant shift among Catholics who preferred to stay in the UK with a Hard Brexit. This group was 12% in October but now it is 5.1% stay in the UK and 4.8% undecided so it appears that half of Catholics (the 12%) who wished to stay in the UK with a Hard Brexit in October are now undecided or in favour of a United Ireland. Younger voters (age 18 to 44) are strongly in favour of a United Ireland by a 20% margin. The main reason that a United Ireland has a plurality is that support for staying in the UK with a Hard Brexit has collapsed to only 14.5% among Alliance-Green voters with a clear majority of 56.9% in favour of a United Ireland.
What are the implications of all of this?
The EU is aware that Northern Ireland voted 56% to Remain in the EU in June 2016 and that in December 2017 58% wish to remain in the EU Customs Union and Single Market. The support for leaving the EU Customs Union and Single Market is less than 40%. Therefore, the EU should acknowledge the wishes of the Northern Ireland people and negotiate an agreement with the UK that includes a Northern Ireland that essentially remains in the EU. This is irrespective of what the remainder of the UK negotiates with the EU. The Republic of Ireland and certain political parties within Northern Ireland, including SF, the SDLP, Alliance and Green parties, should support this negotiating position since their voters in Northern Ireland also overwhelmingly support Northern Ireland remaining fully within the EU.
An outsider reading about this whole situation in the previous 2 weeks could conclude that Arlene Foster and the DUP are representing Northern Ireland in the Brexit negotiations. Yet their views are held by less than 40% of Northern Ireland voters. In the coming year it is essential that the non unionist parties represent the views of the majority of Northern Ireland voters who wish to remain in the EU in all negotiations with the EU.
Now it is true that if the UK did agree to allow Northern Ireland to remain in the EU Customs Union and Single Market that the DUP would strongly object and threaten to withdraw their support for the Conservative government and thus collapse that government. However, if that occurs then a Border Poll should be called. A Border Poll may be the best options if negotiations are deadlocked over a final agreement. The EU, Republic of Ireland and non unionist Northern Ireland parties should not allow a DUP or unionist veto in any agreement.
The results of a Border Poll would be much more in favour of a United Ireland than the 2.5% margin that exists in this recent poll. In an actual Border Poll 16 and 17 year olds should be allowed to vote. The demographics of that age group and the fact that younger voters strongly favour a United Ireland would result in a 65% vote in favour of a United Ireland in that age group which would increase the margin to 3.5%.
The Undecided group is currently 6.1% but that group consists of 4% None/Other and 1% Catholic and only 1% Protestant. That is a demographic profile that is unlikely to aid the stay in the UK vote. This poll includes very few foreign nationals. There were 1% included in the poll that did not identify their identity as British, Irish, Northern Irish or some combination. That group would have included some who identified as Scottish, English, Welsh as well as some actual foreign nationals. That 1% broke down to 76% for a United Ireland and 19% to remain in the UK. If only actual foreign nationals were counted support for a United Ireland would actually exceed 90%. Since foreign nationals are potentially 10% of the electorate the actual margin of victory for a United Ireland could exceed 55%.
It is time for the political parties in Northern Ireland that favour a United Ireland to begin negotiations with the EU and the Republic of Ireland on integrating Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland and including a potential Border Poll in negotiations with the UK.