We’ve been hearing a lot in the news lately about Brexit and that Teresa May, Leo Varadkar and Arlene Foster constantly reaching an impasse on the border issue. The Irish border would be a trade barrier between Ireland and the UK now that Northern Ireland will be moving out of 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 at all.
With the lack of clarity on the issue, I asked some of my peers what their opinions were. I wondered would everyone either be completely in the dark or uncaring either way. This pushed me to create a survey to investigate what people in general think about the proposed border and how it could affect Ireland as a whole. The results of my survey can be seen in full at this link here.
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. 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 those who responded came from Leinster with the second highest at 30% hailing from Ulster. The respondents overall were Irish citizens according to the 96% result. The majority were 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. However, what didn’t really surprise me is that there are also a lot of people who are unclear. This reflects my own experiences of talking to my peers about it. There were 32.65% of respondents who said they heard of the proposed border but don’t have a clear understanding of what’s going on and 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 respondents about whether they think the border could have a positive or negative financial affect in Ireland. The majority at 63.27% believe that it would have mainly a negative financial effect in Ireland. However, 22.45% are of the opinion that it all depends on the type of border that could be put in place. Interestingly 4.08% think that it might have a positive financial affect in Ireland. I asked a similar question regarding whether they think a border would have a positive or negative social affect 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 even higher than those who think it will have a negative financial effect. 20% of respondents claims that it depends on the type of border and 4% think it will have a positive affect, although 2% aren’t sure.
The type of media that we engage with has the potential to sway opinions in certain directions and shape them. Therefore, I asked what type of media the respondents engage with regarding the Brexit 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 local media in Ireland and the UK which consisted of 10% and 4% of respondents respectively.
Finally, the respondents 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 while 4% answered that they don’t care. A small percentage claimed to want a hard border approach at 2% and 2% were undecided about the border and what they wanted.
In conclusion, this has given me the understanding that people are more concerned with the bigger picture of the Brexit border’s affect in Ireland due to the large focus on national media coverage rather than the provincial media. The survey also shows that a large number of college age students are interested in how it could affect Ireland which is different to what I had thought previously. Many people are quite negative about an Irish border and the results confirm that any border would be unwelcome for most people, or a 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 very high but people do seem to be making an effort to engage with the media and educate themselves. My final thought is that all governments involved need to provide more clarity to the citizens around the protocols and exactly what is involved in the proposed Brexit border in Ireland.