We’ve been hearing a lot in the news lately about Brexit and the border issue with Teresa May, Leo Varadkar and Arlene Foster constantly reaching an impasse for a solution. The purpose of the Irish border is to try and place a trade barrier between Ireland and the UK, now that Northern Ireland leaving the EU with the UK. There have been arguments over whether there should be a hard border put in place with security checkpoints and passport checks between the Republic and the North, whether there should be a soft border with crossing regulations using modern technology, or whether there should be no border placed at all pro-rata with Ireland and the UK’s Good Friday Agreement drawn up after the troubles.
With the lack of clarity on the issue, I asked some of my peers what their opinions were. Intrigued by the consensus of either being completely in the dark or uncaring either way, this prompted me to create a universal survey to investigate what people, in general, think about the proposed border and how it could affect Ireland as a whole.
I shared my survey across various platforms including LinkedIn, TheStudentRoom.co.uk, Politics.ie and Facebook messenger groups. Altogether 50 people participated in the survey and I purposefully left the age range and location very broad because I hoped for as much diversity as possible.
The result was that 46% of respondents came from Leinster with the second highest at 30% hailing from Ulster. The responders overall were Irish citizens according to the 96% result. The majority were also aged 18-24 at 44.9% with the second highest respondents being of the 45-54 age range.
When asked if they had a clear understanding of the proposed Brexit Border, 48.98% claimed to be fully up to date and to have an understanding. Unsurprisingly, there are also a lot of people who are unclear which reflects my own experiences of talking to my peers about it. There were 32.65% of responders who said they heard of the proposed border but don’t have a clear understanding of what’s going on.
8.16% said they had never even heard about the proposed border at all.
I have heard people speak about their concerns over the trading aspect, so I then questioned the responders about whether they think the border could have a positive or negative financial effect in Ireland. The majority at 63.27% believe that it would have a predominantly negative financial effect in Ireland, with only 4.08% thinking that the impacts could be positive. However, 22.45% believe it all depends on the type of border that could be put in place.
I asked a similar question regarding whether they think a border would have a positive or negative social effect due to concerns about whether it will increase hostility once more between North and South. There was a result of 68% who believed it would have a negative social effect which is higher than those who think it will have a negative financial effect.
A result of 20% thinks that it depends on the type of border and 4% think it will have a positive effect although 2% aren’t sure.
The type of media that we engage with has the potential to shape opinions, and I asked the respondents about the media they engage in regarding the border. Overall, 74% said that they engage with Irish national media while 42% claimed to engage with the UK national media. There were 14% of people who said that they engaged with a different country’s media altogether about the issue, 12% said they have no preference and 2% said that they don’t engage with the issue in the media at all. I wasn’t surprised that the highest percentage followed Irish and UK national media, but I was surprised that more people engage with the topic in other countries’ media more than provincial media in Ireland and the UK which consisted of 10% and 4% of responders respectively.
Finally, the responders were asked what type of post-Brexit border they hope to see in Ireland. The majority of 82% answered that they don’t want to see any border in Ireland. However, 10% were open to a soft border approach, with only 2% wanting a hard border.
Overall, people are more concerned with the bigger picture of the Brexit border’s effect in Ireland due to the large focus on national media coverage rather than the provincial media. The survey also shows that many college-age students are interested in how it could affect Ireland which dispelled my previous assumption that many aren’t concerned.
The views that the majority hold regarding an Irish border are quite negative and the results confirm that any border would be unwelcome for most people, or at least for the majority who claim to be Irish citizens. The percentage of people who aren’t clear about what is happening with the border are still too high, but they do seem to be trying to engage with the media and educate themselves.
Overall, the governments involved should be trying to provide more clarity to citizens regarding the border, and what is involved in relation to current proposals.
The results of my survey can be seen in full at this link here.