Queen's Policy Engagement

What do the public think about the backstop?

Professor John Garry looks at recent survey results to see what the public in Northern Ireland thinks about the backstop.

What do the public think about the backstop?

Is the Brexit borders puzzle in Northern Ireland a zero-sum game, in which one side’s win implies another’s loss? It certainly seems so. Unionist politicians desperately want to avoid any kind of economic border down the Irish Sea that may be triggered by the dreaded ‘backstop’.

Nationalists fear that succumbing to unionist demands to eradicate the backstop would open the door to a hardening of the north-south border.

However, as is often the case with seemingly intractable winner-takes-all squabbling, there does exist a compromise solution both supported by the public, and under which everyone could be a winner.

Research from a detailed report on public attitudes in 2018 showed both communities in Northern Ireland were supportive of the kind of soft UK-wide Brexit that would obviate any north-south or east-west border concerns.

This would involve the UK leaving the EU, but remaining in the (or a) customs union and single market.

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Article originally appeared in The UK in a Changing Europe. 

The featured image in this article has been used thanks to a Creative Commons licence

Professor John Garry
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John Garry is Professor of Political Behaviour in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s University Belfast.

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