Editorial: Poll confirms protocol support

Latest polling provides further evidence of what most people already know – that a majority back post-Brexit trade arrangements agreed by the British government and EU and that this support is growing.

A report from researchers at Queen's University Belfast reveals that six out of 10 respondents see the protocol and accompanying Windsor Framework as an appropriate way of managing the divorce from Europe, while almost the same proportion – 56 per cent cent – view it overall as “a good thing for Northern Ireland”.

Just over a third disagreed that the deal providing dual market access was positive for the region.

The survey was the eighth in a series of polls and recorded increased support for the protocol compared to the start of this year.

Respected academic Professor Katy Hayward also noted that one of the biggest shifts in opinion since the Windsor Framework in February was an increase in positivity around UK-EU and British-Irish relations.

“That in itself is a better foundation for political stability in post-Brexit Northern Ireland but there is still a long way to go," she said.

The results chime with other surveys of opinion, including by the University of Liverpool's Institute of Irish Studies in conjunction with this newspaper earlier this year.

It found that support for the Windsor Framework outstripped opposition by almost three-to-one, at 45 per cent compared to 17.

Of course elections have also repeatedly returned a majority who recognise that the post-Brexit arrangements represent the best available protection for Northern Ireland from the worst impacts of a hard Brexit.

Despite this, the DUP has held devolved government and our underfunded public services to ransom in an attempt to pressure the British government to change a deal reached after exhaustive negotiations with the EU and overwhelmingly endorsed at Westminster.

Following a meeting of Stormont leaders with the head of the civil service yesterday – at which the damage caused by the absence of an executive can only have been painfully clear – Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was still maintaining that restoration of power-sharing is not inevitable.

He said progress depended on London's response to DUP concerns about the Windsor Framework, with the party understood to have submitted proposals earlier this month.

The British government, keen to finally put Brexit behind it, will likely offer a legislative fig leaf to allow Sir Jeffrey to justify his eventual return to Stormont. The question remains whether he will have the courage to take it.