A majority of Remainers and Leavers would be prepared to see Northern Ireland leave the Union in order to achieve their preferred Brexit outcome, a survey has found.
Around four in 10 Britons said they cared little or not at all about the region.
Unionists in Belfast are opposed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proposed Brexit deal which they believe would create a regulatory border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
It would involve the region following some of the rules of the EU’s single market to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland but including a new regime for goods crossing the Irish Sea.
Research carried out by the YouGov polling organisation suggested:
– Four in 10 Britons would not be concerned if Northern Ireland leaves the UK
– 41% said they cared little or not at all about Northern Ireland
– A majority would rather have their preferred Brexit outcome than see Northern Ireland stay in the Union; which was true for both Remainers and Leavers
– Even those who care a “great deal” about Northern Ireland, and want it to stay in the UK, would choose their Brexit preference over the Union remaining intact.
A total of 1,641 adults on mainland Britain were asked about the issue between October 23 and 24.
The organisation said: “New YouGov polling today exposes the weaknesses in the link between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
“YouGov asked mainland Britons how much they care about Northern Ireland, how they’d feel if it left the Union and whether getting their own way on Brexit was more important than keeping the UK together.”
It said its results showed that 41% say they “would not be bothered” if Northern Ireland left the UK.
A further 41% said they would be “upset” if it broke away, while only a minority of 9% would be “actively pleased to see them go”.
The referendum divide does not make a difference, with 58% of Remain voters and 64% of Leave voters saying they’d rather have their own way on Brexit than see the Union preserved.
YouGov added: “As with so much, however, Brexit takes precedent.
“Given the choice between having their preferred outcome on Brexit and Northern Ireland staying in the Union, a majority of 58% chose the former and only 18% the latter.”
The Irish border has been one of the key sticking points in the Brexit negotiations.
The polling organisation added: “Even those Britons who say they want Northern Ireland to stay part of the UK tend to be willing to sacrifice it for the sake of Brexit.
“Almost half (47%) chose their preferred Brexit option, compared to 35% who chose the Union.”