Northern Ireland Could Quit the U.K. Within a Decade, Polls Show
(Bloomberg) -- Voters in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland see themselves united as one country in the next 10 years, according to polls conducted on both sides of the border.
South of the border, 62% of people favor Irish unity, though the majority view it as a long-term project rather than an immediate priority, according to a poll for the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI. The most popular timeline for a referendum was “in the next 10 years.”
A separate poll by Lord Ashcroft in Northern Ireland showed a majority think there should be a border poll some time in the future. If a referendum were held in 10 years time, two thirds thought it would see a vote in favor of a united Ireland.
The U.K. has retained control of the six provinces of Northern Ireland since the southern part of the island won independence a century ago, but set out the terms on which reunification could take place in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Referendums would need to be held on both sides of the border. Only the U.K. can call a ballot in the north, and it is obliged to do so if it seems likely that voters would choose reunification.
The U.K.’s departure from the European Union has thrust the Irish border into the spotlight more than two decades after the peace settlement ended years of sectarian conflict. The terms of the Brexit deal effectively keep Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs area and much of the single market, which unionists claim undermines their British identity and has caused renewed tension. But a generation has grown up since the Good Friday Agreement was signed, making traditional loyalties less sharp.
Most respondents in Northern Ireland said they would choose to remain part of the U.K. if a poll were held today. But support for Irish unification was more popular among younger age groups and one in five said Brexit had made them question their support for staying in the U.K.
Both sets of respondents expressed doubts and concerns regarding the practicalities of a border poll and prospect of a united Ireland. In the North, many said a poll would be divisive and likely see a resurgence of violence in the region. In the South, the vast majority said they wouldn’t accept higher taxes, spending cuts, a new flag or national anthem.
The Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll was conducted among 1,200 adults from Dec. 5 to Dec. 8 while the Lord Ashcroft survey of 3,301 adults in Northern Ireland took place between Nov. 15 and Nov. 18.
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