Poll re­ports:

Lat­est poll shows vot­ers are split over per­for­mance in ne­go­ti­a­tions

The Irish Times - - Front Page - Pat Leahy

Vot­ers are di­vided on the Gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to Brexit, the Border is­sue and its fu­ture ap­proach to the ne­go­ti­a­tions, the lat­est Ir­ish Times/Ip­sos MRBI opin­ion poll has found.

Al­most four in 10 vot­ers (39 per cent) say that the Gov­ern­ment is do­ing a good job on Brexit, but a third (33 per cent) dis­agree, say­ing the Gov­ern­ment is not do­ing a good job. Al­most as many (29 per cent) say they are not sure.

Bet­ter-off vot­ers are more likely to ap­prove of the Gov­ern­ment’s per­for­mance on Brexit, as are vot­ers in Dublin. Ur­ban vot­ers in gen­eral have a bet­ter view of the Gov­ern­ment’s per­for­mance.

Other ques­tions show sim­i­lar di­vi­sions. Asked if the Border is the most im­por­tant is­sue, 45 per cent of re­spon­dents agree, but 42 per cent dis­agree, with 14 per cent de­clin­ing to ex­press a po­si­tion.

Farm­ers (55 per cent) and vot­ers in the Con­nacht-Ul­ster re­gion (49 per cent) are the most likely to pri­ori­tise the Border.

Just un­der a third (32 per cent) of vot­ers ex­pect there to be a hard border, but more vot­ers (42 per cent) say they ex­pect Brexit to re­sult in a soft border. Just over a quar­ter (26 per cent) say they do not know.

Vot­ers are al­most evenly di­vided on the best ap­proach to the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions in the com­ing weeks.

Asked the fol­low­ing ques­tion: “If there is no progress on the Border is­sue, should the Gov­ern­ment in­sist that the EU halts ne­go­ti­a­tions with the UK, or should it let ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tinue?” In re­sponse 40 per cent of those polled favour halt­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions while 41 per cent say the ne­go­ti­a­tions should con­tinue.

Block progress

The Gov­ern­ment has re­peat­edly threat­ened to block progress on the with­drawal agree­ment if it does not see suf­fi­cient progress on deal­ing with the Border issues be­fore the June sum­mit of EU lead­ers.

At present, the Gov­ern­ment ex­pects the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment to ad­vance new pro­pos­als for some sort of cus­toms part­ner­ship in the com­ing weeks. At that point the Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment will have to de­cide whether these pro­pos­als form a ba­sis for fu­ture progress to en­sure a soft border, or whether to in­sist that the UK comes up with a vi­able text for the “back­stop” agree­ment be­fore J une.

The back­stop agree­ment, agreed by the Bri­tish prime min­is­ter Theresa May last De­cem­ber and con­firmed at the most re­cent sum­mit of Euro­pean lead­ers in March, prom­ises to main­tain the same reg­u­la­tions for trade and cus­toms on both sides of the Border even if there is no agree­ment be­tween the EU and the UK on ways to avoid a hard border.

Sin­gle mar­ket

At the time May also pledged to union­ists in the North that any plan would main­tain the UK’s sin­gle mar­ket. When the EU pro­duced a draft word­ing that would have kept the North ef­fec­tively in the EU cus­toms union, it was re­jected out of hand by May, though the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment re­mains com­mit­ted to the prin­ci­ple of main­tain­ing a soft border with no new bar­ri­ers or in­fra­struc­ture.

Yes­ter­day in Sofia, Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar struck a tough note, say­ing that the With­drawal Agree­ment could be in jeop­ardy with­out progress on Border issues. How­ever, the poll sug­gests that pub­lic opin­ion is di­vided on the Gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach.

Pre­vi­ously, the Gov­ern­ment saw a boost in its for­tunes af­ter se­cur­ing the Bri­tish agree­ment to the back­stop at the De­cem­ber sum­mit, so the ap­pre­hen­sion as seen in the Ir­ish Times/Ip­sos MRBI opin­ion poll about the Gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach is likely to cause con­cern in Gov­ern­ment Build­ings.

Min­is­ters are also likely to note that while the Gov­ern­ment has made the Border its red-line is­sue in the Brexit talks, pub­lic opin­ion is more equiv­o­cal. In ad­di­tion, vot­ers are clearly un­sure about the wis­dom of hold­ing the Brexit talks hostage on the Border is­sue.

The poll was con­ducted on Mon­day and Tues­day of this week in face-to-face interviews among a na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of 1,200 el­i­gi­ble vot­ers.

In­ter­view­ing took place at 120 sam­pling points across all con­stituen­cies. The ac­cu­racy level is es­ti­mated to be about plus or mi­nus 2.8 per cent.

‘‘ Just un­der a third (32 per cent) of vot­ers ex­pect there to be a hard border, but more vot­ers (42 per cent) say they ex­pect Brexit to re­sult in a soft border

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