Majority in Northern Ireland want to stay in the EU

Northern Irish support for Europe is robust, amid fears that Brexit could threaten the peace process


A majority of people in Northern Ireland want to remain in the European Union according to a new poll out today.

Conducted by Danske Bank, the survey of 1,000 people in Northern Ireland last month has found that 56 per cent favour remaining in the European Union, down from the 58 per cent who said likewise when the Bank carried out a similar poll in June 2015.

Just 18 per cent of respondents indicated that they would like to leave the EU (up 2 percentage points from June 2015) whilst the proportion of people saying they are undecided remained the same at 26 per cent.

Whilst 56 per cent wanted to stay in the EU, 45 per cent said that they would be content to remain on the current terms of membership, with 10 per cent preferring to stay in but in the hope that the UK will continue to push for further reform in Europe.

Support for staying in the EU was strongest in the North West and  Belfast City. Those who are unemployed or on low incomes were found to be most likely to want the UK to leave.

Commenting on the results, Danske Bank Chief Economist Angela McGowan said:

“The latest poll shows that there has been a very small shift when it comes to Northern Ireland’s preference for EU membership. Support for staying in Europe is by far the majority view although the leave campaigners have made a little ground over the last year. Typically we have found that middle class households, men and full-time workers remain most eager for remaining in the EU.  However, older people, those on low income households and people living in the north of Northern Ireland are more likely to support a Brexit.

“EU membership is one of the most important decisions that people in the UK will have taken in decades. The result will have economic, political and social consequences and it is alarming that 26 per cent of people are uncertain about how they will vote.”

The referendum result will be keenly watched across Northern Ireland—the only part of the UK to share a land border with another European Union country.

Concerns have also been raised that the result could affect the peace process and stability of the political institutions across Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness has previously called for a vote on Northern Ireland’s constitutional future should the UK vote to leave the EU. He declared that there would be a ‘democratic imperative’ to hold such a vote.

Last week, the former US President, Bill Clinton argued that Northern Ireland would be ‘whacked’ by a vote to leave the EU. Irish Taoiseach [Prime Minister], Enda Kenny, previously warned that Brexit could cause ‘serious difficulties’ for the peace process.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward

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