June 8, 2018 / 10:30 AM / a year ago

Northern Irish almost evenly split on whether to remain in the UK - survey

A banner saying 'British and Proud' is seen on the side of a house in the Loyalist area of Sandy Row in Belfast, Northern Ireland May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

LONDON (Reuters) - Nearly as many Northern Irish people would back joining the republic of Ireland as support remaining in the United Kingdom, with Brexit pushing some to switch in favour of unification, according to a poll conducted for the BBC.

The future of the border on the island has dominated the Brexit debate in recent weeks with ministers on Thursday finding a compromise on the thorny issue of a backstop Brexit plan for the Irish border.

Politics in the province have long been divided between mainly Catholic proponents of Irish unification and majority Protestant supporters of continued rule by Britain who have been at loggerheads since power-sharing collapsed in January 2017.

According to a Lucid Talk poll for the BBC, 45 percent of people in the province would back staying in the UK when asked how they would vote in a referendum on the border issue.

A total of 42.1 percent said they would support becoming part of the republic of Ireland whilst 12.7 percent were undecided.

Just over a quarter of respondents said that they used to support staying in the UK but may or would now back joining the Republic of Ireland due to the Brexit vote.

The survey was conducted online and by telephone in May from a sample of 1,336 people.

Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Stephen Addison

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