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Majority believe Northern Ireland Protocol is a 'good thing' for north, survey finds

The Port of Belfast. A majority of people believe the Northern Ireland Protocol is a "good thing" for the north, according to a new poll. Picture by Liam McBurney, Press Association

A MAJORITY of people believe the Northern Ireland Protocol is a "good thing" for the north, according to a new poll.

Conducted for a research project at Queen's University Belfast, it shows that 52 per cent of respondents in October agreed that the protocol is a positive measure, compared to 43 per cent in June.

The survey, undertaken using the online LucidTalk Northern Ireland Opinion Panel, involved a weighted sample of 2,682 voters who take an interest in current affairs and who are likely to vote.

The results showed that opinions on Brexit and the protocol remain divided and are generally consistent with previous polls conducted in March and June.

Although concerns remain about the impact of Brexit and the protocol on Northern Ireland, most participants (53 per cent) now "agree" or "strongly agree" that the protocol provides an appropriate means for managing the effects of Brexit.

A majority disagree that the UK would be justified now in triggering Article 16 and suspending parts of the deal.

Around 62 per cent agree that the protocol provides Northern Ireland with post-Brexit economic opportunities, compared to Britain.

In the previous two polls, only 57 and 50 per cent respectively agreed that the protocol provided an opportunity.

Despite the UK government saying it wants to remove the European Court of Justice from its oversight role as part of the protocol, the poll found that this is not a top priority for voters in Northern Ireland.

It found that three-quarters would like to see officials and experts from Northern Ireland attend EU meetings dealing with EU law applicable under the protocol.

David Phinnemore, Professor of European Politics at Queen's, said more people have accepted the protocol although some concerns remain.

"Immediate priority concerns relate to the future availability of medicines and increased paperwork for and restrictions on bringing goods into Northern Ireland from Great Britain," he said.

"The UK government sees removal of the Court of Justice from the protocol as an overriding priority; the evidence from this poll is that this is not a priority concern of voters in Northern Ireland.

"What matters more are practical issues and addressing the political instability resulting from Brexit and responses to the protocol."

Trust in those involved in managing the protocol remains low. Around 87 per cent said they did not trust the British government; 53 per cent said they did not trust the Northern Ireland Executive, and 45 per cent did not trust the Irish government.

Around 44 per cent reported a lack of trust in the EU.

Co-investigator on the project, Katy Hayward, Professor of Political Sociology at Queen's, said the survey was an important indicator of the public's attitudes.

"The UK and the EU have a crucial opportunity now to restore trust and confidence across communities in NI, as well as to address the issues that have arisen since the end of the transition period that matter most to people here," she said.

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