Vast majority in Northern Ireland back Sunak’s Brexit deal

Rishi Sunak faced a rebellion from some of his backbenchers, but his deal was passed - Jordan Pettitt/PA
Rishi Sunak faced a rebellion from some of his backbenchers, but his deal was passed - Jordan Pettitt/PA

Almost three times as many people in Northern Ireland support Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal as oppose it, a new poll has found.

The survey, published ahead of a crucial vote in Westminster on Wednesday, revealed 45 per cent of those polled backed the Windsor Framework.

Just 16.9 per cent rejected the new deal outright, while about one third responding to the poll by The Irish News and the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool, neither opposed or rejected it.

The poll included more than one in five (22.8 per cent) DUP voters saying they were opposed.

Mr Sunak had faced a rebellion from some of his backbenchers in Wednesday’s vote on the “Stormont brake” , but it was backed by 515 to 29, a majority of 486.

The Northern Ireland Protocol deal with the EU was struck in February after years of discord between Brussels and London.

The DUP pulled out of the Northern Ireland Assembly over the Irish Sea border, which it says drives a wedge between the province and the rest of the UK. It has maintained a year-long boycott of Stormont, which it has said will only end if the new deal meets its conditions.

The party’s eight MPs had said they would vote against the deal and demand further changes to the agreement, which Mr Sunak ruled out.

However, the poll, which was conducted from March 3 to 14, showed that some unionists are in favour of the Windsor Framework.

The DUP is the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland and the second largest in the country after elections in May were won by Sinn Fein for the first time.

A little more than one in five (22.8 per cent) of DUP voters said they were opposed to the new deal, while more than a third (36 per cent) said they weren’t opposed.

A third (33 per cent) neither agreed or disagreed when they were asked if they were opposed to the Windsor Framework.

Despite that, the DUP is anxious about shedding support to the virulently anti-protocol Traditional Ulster Voice (TUV) in local elections this May if it backs the deal too soon.

Opposition to the deal is stronger among TUV supporters (54 per cent) and weaker in the moderate Ulster Unionist Party (4.8 per cent).

In all, just 15.7 per cent of unionists from all parties opposed the Windsor Framework outright, with 45.8 per cent accepting it and 28.9 per cent neither agreeing or disagreeing.

A majority of Northern Ireland’s political parties and Assembly members supported the protocol and have called on the DUP to drop its boycott of Stormont after the new deal was agreed.

Prof Peter Shirlow, the director of the Institute of Irish Studies, said TUV voters were the only group demonstrating majority opposition to the Windsor Framework. The TUV returned a single member to the Assembly in the last Stormont election, but did poach some DUP support.