UK government distrusted by people of Northern Ireland over Protocol, study shows

UK government distrusted by people of Northern Ireland over Protocol, study shows

SUPPORT AMONG voters in Northern Ireland for the Protocol is steadily increasing, a new opinion poll shows.

The majority of respondents (55%) now view the Protocol as being appropriate for managing the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland (up from 47% in June 2021), while 38% disagree.

The study also shows that people in Northern Ireland largely distrust the British government when it comes to managing the region's interest with respect to the Protocol.

The UK government is the most distrusted party in relation to the Protocol, with 84% distrusting it, and 55% strongly distrusting it. Voters in Northern Ireland are marginally more inclined to trust (47%) than distrust (43%) the European Commission/EU.

The majority of respondents (57%) also do not think the UK government is justified in taking unilateral action to suspend elements of the Protocol and 55% think that the EU would be justified in retaliating against such measures.

Conducted by Lucid Talk on behalf of Queen’s University Belfast between 3-6 June 2022, and from a sample of 1,497 respondents, the poll is the only polling in Northern Ireland dedicated to the topic of the Protocol and has been running at regular intervals since it entered into force.

The most positive views in Northern Ireland are in relation to the Protocol’s economic consequences. 55% of respondents see the current impact of the Protocol on Northern Ireland’s economy as positive, and 65% think that the Protocol offers unique economic opportunities which could benefit Northern Ireland.

In contrast, the greatest concerns are for its political implications – with 59% seeing the Protocol as having a negative impact on political stability and on British-Irish relations. The proportion thinking that the Protocol has a negative impact on Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom, including the UK internal market, is 46% - less than in previous polls but still significant.

Just over a third (36%) of respondents have no concerns about the full operational scope and impact of the Protocol, but 55% do have concerns about the implications if the grace periods were to end and the Protocol were to be fully implemented.

Customs declarations being required for parcels is the issue of most concerning, followed by potential restrictions on plants, seeds and chilled meats being brought into Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

Northern Ireland’s alignment with EU standards on goods is the issue of least concern to these respondents, followed the application of EU rules on state aid.

Principal Investigator of the project, Professor David Phinnemore from the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s, said:

“Many voters in Northern Ireland clearly continue to have genuine concerns about what the full operation of the Protocol would mean. Yet, this latest poll also shows support for the Protocol edging upwards and almost two-thirds of respondents seeing economic opportunities in it.

"Also it’s clear that voters would much prefer outstanding issues between the UK and the EU to be resolved through agreement and not unilateral action by the UK government.”