By Aine Fox, PA Social Affairs Correspondent
A third of people in Great Britain would not mind Northern Ireland leaving the UK, while a fifth believe it will no longer be part of the union in 10 years from now, new research suggests.
Some 39% of those surveyed in England, Scotland and Wales said they think Northern Ireland breaking away from the UK and uniting with the Republic of Ireland “would not make much difference” to the remaining three nations.
The exclusive polling for the PA news agency comes as the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement approaches and as the debate around Northern Ireland’s future continues.
The online survey by Ipsos of 2,166 adults aged 18 to 75 living in Great Britain between March 30th and April 2nd sought to gain the views of English, Scottish and Welsh residents.
Respondents were asked if they would prefer Northern Ireland to choose to remain in the UK or to leave and join with the Republic of Ireland were there to be a referendum.
While 40 per cent said they would prefer it to stay part of the UK, 33 per cent said they did not mind either way and 17 per cent said they would prefer Northern Ireland to break away.
In February 2019, 36 per cent of people polled said they would prefer Northern Ireland to stay in the UK, 36 per cent said they did not mind either way, and 18 per cent said they would prefer it left the UK.
Some 41 per cent of respondents said they think Northern Ireland will still be part of the UK in five years, while 14 per cent think it will not.
Certainty around Northern Ireland’s place in the union decreased as the timeline lengthened – with 31 per cent saying they think Northern Ireland will still be in the UK in 10 years, and 21 per cent in 20 years.
A fifth (20 per cent) said they did not think it would be in the UK in 10 years, rising to almost a quarter (24 per cent) when asked about 20 years from now.
Respondents were also asked to imagine Northern Ireland leaving the UK and becoming united with the Republic.
Almost two-fifths (39 per cent) said they believed this would not make much difference to the remaining nations in the UK, and 30% said it would not make much difference to Northern Ireland.
A fifth (20 per cent) said they believed the remaining nations would be worse off, while 13 per cent said England, Scotland and Wales would be better off.
Some 21 per cent said Northern Ireland would be worse off in this instance, while 19 per cent said they thought it would be better off.
Most Britons asked whether the Windsor Framework is a good or bad deal for Northern Ireland and the UK did not have an opinion, the polling suggested.
The framework was unveiled in February as a means of adapting the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol to deal with trade disruption between the region and the rest of the UK.
The deal has been formally signed off by the UK Government and the EU.
Around a quarter of people said they thought it was a very or fairly good deal for Northern Ireland (25%) and the UK (24%) while 9 per cent said they thought it was a very or fairly bad deal.
The remainder thought it was neither a good or bad deal, said they did not know or that they had not heard anything or enough about the deal.