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Theresa May says Brexit must work for Northern Ireland

Theresa May
Theresa May

Prime Minister Theresa May has said that the UK's departure from the European Union must work for Northern Ireland.

Mrs May said she wanted to "engage with" all of Stormont's parties as she travelled to Belfast to meet First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

She added that Brexit talks must take into account Northern Ireland's land border with the Republic of Ireland and Europe, and the potential disruption to the free movement of people and goods.

Political leaders have said there is no appetite for a return of watchtowers on the Irish border.

Mrs May said: "I have been clear that we will make a success of the UK's departure from the European Union.

"That means it must work for Northern Ireland, too, including in relation to the border with the Republic.

"We will engage with all of Northern Ireland's political parties as we prepare for that negotiation."

People and goods going between Northern Ireland and the Republic have been able to move freely thanks to the common travel area (CTA).

The open borders agreement, set up in the 1920s, has been strengthened by both Britain and Ireland's European membership.

However, questions and concerns have been raised about what this means for the CTA and for both economies in the wake of the UK's Leave referendum result.

French president Francois Hollande has said the Irish border will be a special case in the Brexit negotiations.

Mrs May is expected to emphasise her strong, personal commitment to serving all the people of the UK during her Belfast visit.

The Prime Minister will also affirm that her Government will continue to work with the Northern Ireland Executive, all local political parties and the Irish Government to ensure implementation of the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements, delivering stability in Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister will make clear that the Government will engage fully with the Northern Ireland Executive as it prepares the negotiations on the UK's exit from the European Union, recognising the particular circumstances that affect Northern Ireland - including around the border with the Republic of Ireland.

She said: "I am delighted to be visiting Northern Ireland. I made clear when I became Prime Minister that I place particular value on the precious bonds between the nations of the United Kingdom.

"I want to assure the people of Northern Ireland that I will lead a government which works for everyone across all parts of the United Kingdom, and that Northern Ireland is a special and valued part of that union.

"I look forward to underlining the government's commitment to the Belfast Agreement and its institutions, and to working with local parties and the Irish Government to fully implement the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements.

"Peace and stability in Northern Ireland will always be of the highest priority for my government."

PA