Owen Paterson and Sammy Wilson say Irish border being 'cynically and recklessly'exploited by Remainers

Christopher Hope

The Irish border issue is being “cynically and recklessly exploited” by Remainers who want to keep the UK tied to the European Union, senior Tory and Democratic Unionist Party politicians say today.

Backbench Conservative MPs have been warned privately by Downing Street that opinion in the Province is drifting towards a united Ireland, The Telegraph has learned.

However a new report from Queen’s University, Belfast, out today, has found that just one in five people living in Northern Ireland supports a united Ireland.

Writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, Owen Paterson, a former Conservative Northern Ireland secretary, and Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman, say the UK and EU have agreed to “respect the border, and leave the choice about its future solely, democratically and peacefully to the people of Northern Ireland”.

Sammy Wilson MP Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

They say: “Unionists have every right to expect what’s actually in the Agreement is honoured, rather than fantasies about it being cynically and recklessly exploited by Remainers.”

The report found "substantial support" in the Province among Catholics for the idea of having a referendum on a united Ireland, with 68 per cent in favour and just 29 per cent  of Protestants in favour once the UK has left the EU

However, asked how they would vote  if there were a referendum on remaining within the UK or reunifying with the rest of Ireland when the UK leave the EU, just 21 per cent supported a united Ireland.

The academics surveyed a representative sample of 1,000 people in February and March.