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More than half of people in Ireland think less of Britain since Brexit

63% of people say their view of Britain has changed since it left the EU, and of those, 95% say it has changed for the worse.

BRITAIN HAS GONE down in the eyes of more than half of people in Ireland since it left the European Union, a new poll has found.

63% of people say their view of Britain has changed since Brexit, and of those, 95% say it has changed for the worse.

Overall, that means 59.8% think less of Britain now since the Brexit vote.

Polling by The Good Information Project/Ireland Thinks this month asked respondents whether their view of Britain changed since Brexit and if it changed for better or worse.

For 34% of people, their views have not changed, and 2% don’t know.

Two-thirds of women have a different opinion of Britain now than before, along with 60% of men; 97% and 93% of those men and women respectively said it changed for the worse.

A changed perspective is present at a nearly equal level among all age groups, ranging from 60% to 64%, except among 25 to 34-year-olds, of whom 70% said their view of Britain is different since Brexit.

Among political party affiliations, Green Party and Social Democrat voters were especially likely to say their views on Britain have changed since Brexit at 86% and 75% respectively.

That was followed by 65% of Fine Gael, 64% of Fianna Fáil, 62% of Sinn Féin, 61% of People Before Profit, and 57% of Independent voters.

Only 38% of Aontú voters said their view has changed, with 72% of them indicating it changed for the worse and 25% for the better. Of those who said it hadn’t changed, 53% felt it stayed the same, and, if pressed, 20% leaned towards saying it would have changed for the worse and 26% for the better.

Kevin Cunningham, the founder of Ireland Thinks and a lecturer at TU Dublin, said that “for some people, Brexit has had a bigger impact on how they perceive Britain”.

“These people are quite similar to who would have been the core ‘Remain’ demographic in the UK, the sometimes unfairly maligned ‘metropolitan liberal elite’,” Cunningham explained.

“That is, people with higher levels of educational attainment, people living in Dublin, people aged 25-34, people on higher incomes, and supporters of the Green Party or Social Democrats,” he said.

“These people are more likely to say that their view of Britain changed due to Brexit.

“At the other end we have the more rural, older members of the public, more likely to support Aontú, who are much less moved by the development.”

Ireland Thinks polled a representative sample of 1,453 people between 3 and 5 December. 

People with higher incomes over €50,000 were much more likely to say their views had changed (71%) than those on lower incomes less than €5,000 (38%)

Of those who said their views changed, all of those respondents earning an income less than €5,000 said it changed for the worst, along with 95% of people with more than €50,000. 

Regionally, changed views on Britain were more prevalent in Dublin (73%) than other parts of the country, 62% in both Leinster and Munster and 59% in Connacht and Ulster.

But among those whose views have changed, between 94% and 96% of every area said it had changed for the worse.

Speaking to The Journal, Dr Etain Tannam, a lecturer in International Peace Studies and expert in British-Irish relations at Trinity, said that Ireland has been “particularly hit” in the aftermath of Brexit, though the implications are being seen “across the board” in the EU.

“What I’ve noticed is a negative discourse about Britain as a whole. There sometimes isn’t a distinction in the media between Brexiteers and the British government and then the people as a whole, because so many were Remainers and young people would be different as well,” Dr Tannam said.

“I also think there was a latent negativity even before Brexit because of our history,” she said, noting that a general lack of research on attitudes to Britain or England make it difficult to have a baseline to draw comparisons from.

In a way, I think Brexit ignited something that was there to an extent and has made it worse in our case – and for understandable reasons because we are directly affected by Brexit and obviously Northern Ireland is the most affected.

“I think the Shared Island approach [a government campaign for cooperation on the island of Ireland] is trying to deal with that,” she said, drawing on comments made by President Michael D Higgins last year about a need to curb anglophobia in Ireland.

“It’s very tame, it’s not extreme, but it’s a negative view or negative stereotype sometimes.”

She said that improved relations between the governments and between the EU and UK, as well as a resolution to the Northern Ireland Protocol, could positively impact opinions.

“I still think there’s work to be done in our knowledge base of Englishness and Britishness and unionism as well, it’s something there probably needs to be education about anyway, even after Brexit there probably is some ignorance among some people as there is very much in Britain about us.”

After voting to leave the EU in 2016, Britain withdrew from the bloc officially on 31 January 2020, followed by a transition period that finished at the end of the year.

Since then, a major sticking point in post-Brexit talks has been the Northern Ireland Protocol, which allows goods to pass between the Republic and Northern Ireland and instead places checks at the Irish Sea.

Britain has signalled its discontent with the arrangement, saying it obstructs trade flow with Northern Ireland, leading to months-long talks between negotiators with it and the EU, though no consensus has yet been found.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said reaching an agreement on the Protocol before Christmas is “unrealistic at this stage”.

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

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