The vast majority of the Irish public want their government to hold firm on a Brexit backstop even if it risks a no-deal Brexit, according to a Sky Data poll in the Republic of Ireland.
The backstop is an insurance policy to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic if a free trade deal between the UK and EU is not reached by the end of the transition period.
Eight in 10 in the Irish Republic (79%) think their government should hold out for a legal guarantee that there will be no hard border, even if it risks a no-deal Brexit on 29 March.
Just 7% think they should prioritise avoiding a no-deal Brexit.
There is little appetite to give ground to the UK in negotiations to help facilitate a deal – just 7% think the Irish government should compromise more, with almost half (46%) saying they should take a harder line and 41% saying they’re getting the balance about right.
Dublin, like the EU, is insistent on the need for a backstop and say the withdrawal agreement will not be reopened.
Ireland has also dismissed suggestions that it could be replaced with alternative arrangements, saying the insurance policy needs to be based on legal certainty and not just wishful thinking.
Dublin argues that inserting a unilateral exit mechanism or a time limit, which is what some British MPs want Prime Minister Theresa May to do, would render the backstop ineffective.
There is a great deal of satisfaction among Irish people about how Brexit has been handled, both by their own government and the EU.
Six in 10 (60%) think the Irish government has done a good job in Brexit negotiations, with just 17% saying it has done a bad job.
In contrast, the vast majority think the UK government has played its hand poorly Brexit negotiations – 84% think it has done a bad job, just 6% a good one.
For Ireland, 44% think Brexit would be bad with a deal, rising to 73% in the case of a no-deal Brexit.
Some 58% think a no-deal Brexit would be very bad for the UK, compared with 36% for Ireland.
If they had to choose, eight in 10 Irish people (81%) would cut economic ties with the UK rather than with the EU (19%).
Brexit appears to have damaged Irish people’s views of the UK – 66% say they have a less favourable view of the UK as a result of Brexit – 26% say it has made no difference, with 2% more favourable.
Brexit has also made people in the Irish Republic less favourable towards unionists in Northern Ireland in particular – 49% now have a less favourable view of them as a result of Brexit, with 16% more favourable and 28% saying it made no difference.
Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party has made its opposition to the backstop clear and has been pressing Mrs May to secure changes to it. Indeed, some British MPs want it scrapped altogether.
They oppose it because they fear it will weaken the constitutional integrity of the Union – as Northern Ireland would be treated differently to the rest of the UK by following different rules and regulations if the backstop was to come into effect.
Opponents have also expressed fears Britain could end up being trapped in the arrangement – and by extension the EU – indefinitely.
Meanwhile, our poll found that the majority of people in the Republic of Ireland would back Irish unity – 64% support (34% strongly), 16% oppose (6% strongly), with 18% answering neither and 4% don’t know.
Sky Data interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,611 Sky customers in the Republic of Ireland online from 1-4 February 2019. Data are weighted to the profile of the population. Sky Data is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
For full Sky Data tables, please click here
(c) Sky News 2019: Sky Data poll: Irish overwhelmingly back government’s pressure on backstop