January 18, 2021

New year, new deal

Insight into how MLAs perceive Brexit

Author:
Cameron Stocker, Senior Parliamentary Panels Coodinator
All Sinn Féin MLAs agree that a ‘Brexit border’ between NI and GB would be more preferable...

Northern Ireland has arguably had the most turbulent time throughout the Brexit process, worrying constituents on matters of trade, stability and, most pertinently, cross-border relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The negotiations between the UK and the EU and its implications for the Irish border were concerning for Northern Irish parliamentarians; as stated in the Good Friday Agreement, no hard border could be created, yet concern grew as trade talks entered the latter stages of how this matter would be resolved.


Before the trade deal was announced, Savanta ComRes asked MLAs whether a ‘Brexit border’ for trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is preferable compared to a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Half (51%) of MLAs believe a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain would be more preferable than one between NI and the Republic of Ireland. However, results are unsurprisingly different among different political parties. All Sinn Féin MLAs agreed that a ‘Brexit border’ between NI and GB would be more preferable, whereas not a single DUP MLA agreed with this statement.

Keeping the union strong is fundamental for the central government in Whitehall, but MLAs believe Brexit will damage NI-GB relations. Half (52%) of MLAs believe that Brexit will damage Northern Ireland’s relationship with the other constituent parts of the UK, whereas only a quarter (27%) disagree.

“A third (34%) of MLAs agree that the peace process will be harmed due to Brexit.”

A concern that also grew throughout the Brexit process was stability in Northern Ireland. We asked MLAs whether Brexit will harm the peace in Northern Ireland, with a third (34%) of MLAs agreeing that the peace will be harmed due to Brexit, , although marginally more (39%) disagree. Looking at party-breakdowns, half (52%) of Sinn Féin MLAs and five in six (85%) of SDLP MLAs agree peace would be harmed, but all DUP MLAs disagree that the peace would be harmed due to Brexit.

Although Stormont now have a special agreement with the EU, MLAs do not think this will increase their decision-making power. A quarter (25%) of MLAs agree that Stormont’s ability to make decisions will increase, while two in five (43%) disagree. It appears that Unionist MLAs have a more positive view on the matter, as half (48%) agree decision-making power will increase due to the UK withdrawing from the EU.

Finally, we asked whether Brexit was a good thing for the constituents of Northern Ireland. Over four years on from the referendum, it appears the vast majority of MLAs still do not believe Brexit will be positive. Only a quarter (27%) of MLAs, all Unionist, agree that Brexit is a good thing for their constituents, whereas two thirds (68%) of MLAs disagree, showing worry for the future of Northern Ireland.


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