Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU) could trigger Scots to vote for independence and also bring about a united Ireland, new polling has suggested.
Pro-European campaigners at Best for Britain said the findings “ominously threaten the union as we know it” while Labour MEP Catherine Stihler claimed: “There is a clear and present danger to the future of the United Kingdom.”
The research, carried out by Deltapoll for Best for Britain, shows that 52% of voters in Northern Ireland said they would vote for a united Ireland outside of the UK after Britain leaves the EU, with 39% favouring the North staying part of the UK while 7% did not know and the remainder said they would not vote.
Support for a united Ireland would increase if there ended up being a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, according to the poll.
Of the 1,199 people questioned in Northern Ireland, 56% said the return to these arrangements would lead them to vote for a united Ireland which was outside of the UK.
However, if Brexit does not go ahead, only 35% said they would support a united Ireland outside of the UK while 52% would vote for Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK, with 11% unsure how they would vote and the rest would not take part in the ballot.
Meanwhile, the poll also indicated there could be a majority for independence in Scotland following Brexit.
When asked how they would vote if a referendum on Scotland’s future was held after the UK leaves the EU, 47% said they would support independence, with 43% saying they would opt to stay part of the Union.
But if the UK stayed part of the EU, those figures would be reversed, with 43% saying they would vote for independence while 47% said they would back remaining part of Britain.
In both scenarios, 10% of the 1,022 people who were questioned did not know how they would vote.
Best for Britain chief executive Eloise Todd said the research was “compelling evidence as to why we need to stop and think again” on Brexit.
She said: “This is compelling evidence as to why we need to stop and think again. The public deserve a say on the final deal, with the knowledge that if Brexit happens we could shatter the union altogether.”
Phillip Lee, Conservative MP for Bracknell in England, called for a second European referendum, saying: “Brexiteers have to be given a chance to recant now it’s becoming so obvious what’s at risk.
“No government, especially a Conservative one, can legitimately pursue this course which will likely lead – perhaps not tomorrow or next year or over the next decade but nonetheless inexorably – to breaking our Home Union.”
Colin Clark, the Scottish Conservative MP who ousted Alex Salmond in Gordon in 2017, said: “The people of Scotland voted by a significant margin to remain part of the United Kingdom in 2014.
“The body of polling work since then does not suggest any meaningful change in that view. It is time to focus on securing the best deal as we leave the EU – one that works for all parts of the UK.”
Ms Stihler, Labour MEP for Scotland, said: “The Tories’ reckless gamble with the EU referendum and Theresa May’s disastrous handling of the negotiations are stretching the historic bonds that unite us.”
She went on: “Leaving the EU will be calamitous for Scotland’s economy, and there is no such thing as a good Brexit. Leaving the UK would be even more catastrophic, leading to deep austerity and public service cuts that would hurt the poorest the hardest.
“The majority of Scots believe in solidarity across the UK and across Europe, which is why the Tories must stop putting the Union at risk and give voters a say on the final Brexit deal.”
Stephen Gethins MP, SNP Europe spokesman at Westminster, said: “As the deeply damaging consequences of a ‘no deal’ Brexit become clearer, as Scotland’s economy continues to outperform the UK and as people grow increasingly concerned about the future under Westminster rule, support for Scotland’s ability to take its own decisions in an independent country will only grow further.”
Voters in both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain part of the EU in the 2016 referendum despite the UK as a whole voting to leave.
- Press Association