Majority in Britain believe the north's constitutional future is in its own hands

Lord Michael Ashcroft's opinion poll found that less than a third of people in Britain said they would be sorry to see the north leave the union. Picture by John Giles/PA Wire

A MAJORITY of people in Britain don't have a view on whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK, believing its up to the region to decide its own constitutional future, according to a poll by Tory peer Lord Michael Ashcroft.

In a survey of more than 3,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales, fewer than a third said they would be sorry to see the north leave the union, while nine per cent said they would be happy and 63 per cent wouldn't mind either way.

In its survey of people living in Northern Ireland, the former Conservative Party chairman's poll found 49 per cent would vote to retain the union with Britain, compared to 44 per cent who would support a united Ireland. Seven per cent – including nearly three in ten Alliance voters – said they didn't know.

Of nationalists surveyed, 70 per cent said there should be a border poll in the next five years, with one in ten unionists of a similar mind.

More than half DUP voters said there should never be a referendum but fewer than one in five thought there never would be. More than eight in ten nationalists and three in ten unionists thought there would be a border poll in the next ten years.

In the comprehensive survey of opinions, 63 per cent of Leave voters in Britain regarded leaving the EU as greater a priority than maintaining the union. Just over a quarter of respondents said they would opt to keep the UK together, while one in ten said they didn't know.

On Brexit and its implications for the border, two out of three people in Britain who voted to leave the EU said they would prefer to see a hard border rather than for Britain to remain in the EU customs union.

Presented with a choice between a hard border and remaining in the customs union, 41 per cent of all voters would choose the former compared to 32 per cent who would remain in the customs union.

Meanwhile, the UK will not be able to take part in the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) after Brexit, Michel Barnier said as he hit out at British politicians who sought to blame Brussels for the consequences of the Leave vote.

The EU's chief negotiator said Theresa May's "red lines" meant it was impossible to remain part of the EAW, which has helped bring criminals including failed 21/7 London tube bomber Hussain Osman to justice.

Mr Barnier also stressed the need for Britain's future relationship with the EU to be based on a "common commitment to human rights".

That would mean Britain remaining signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights - a Council of Europe rather than EU document - something which the prime minister has previously threatened to pull out of.

In a speech in Vienna, Mr Barnier stressed that "facts have consequences" and the UK government's approach to Brexit meant that the benefits of EU membership on security and legal co-operation could not remain exact.

Brexit talks were continuing in Brussels yesterday and are expected to resume today, with officials discussing the Irish border and the future relationship.

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