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Research shows unionists prefer Brexit over the territorial integrity of the UK

Research found 87 per cent of Leave voters believe the collapse of the peace process is justifiable if Brexit is delivered. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

LEAVE voters in Northern Ireland regard sacrificing the peace process as an acceptable price for Brexit, new research claims.

The joint survey by the University of Edinburgh and Cardiff University found that 87 per cent of the overwhelmingly unionist advocates for leaving the EU believe the collapse of the peace process is justifiable if Brexit is delivered.

According to one of the academics who conducted 'The Future of England Study', unionists' preference for Brexit over the territorial integrity of the UK "raises questions about the type of union we’re in, and indeed what unionism means".

Styling itself the largest and longest-running study of English constitutional attitudes, the research shows that self-professed unionists, most notably Leave-voting Conservatives, were largely unconcerned about the risks to the union posed by Brexit.

It highlights how Theresa May’s "precious Union" has little meaningful support among the British prime minister's own supporters or those in other parties who regard themselves as unionist.

The research found clear majorities of English Conservatives would support Scottish independence (79 per cent) or the collapse of the Irish peace process (75 per cent) as the price of Brexit.

In Northern Ireland, 86 per cent of Leave voters believe Scottish independence would be acceptable if meant securing the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Professor Ailsa Henderson from the University of Edinburgh said the data suggested that, in the pursuit of Brexit, Leave supporters across the UK would be relaxed about a fundamental transformation of the union.

She said there was evidence that Brexit was "dislodging long-held red lines about the union".

"If even unionists in Northern Ireland care less about the territorial integrity of the UK than pursuing Brexit, then it really raises questions about the type of union we’re in, and indeed what unionism means," she said.

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