UK and Eire admit ‘complex’ border negotiations ahead

Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Enda Kenny are attempting to devise a formula to protect the open border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic once the UK has left the European Union.

Eire and UK flags
Protection of the Common Travel Area (CTA) between the Republic and the UK will be a priority for both governments once Brexit negotiations with the EU start.On 25 July, Mrs May paid a visit to Northern Ireland and emphasised that no one wanted a return to the "borders of the past". For his part, Mr Kenny bluntly told President François Hollande last week that the imposition of a “hard” EU border across Ireland would not be acceptable and that the CTA had to be retained.Sources in London said Mrs May and Mr Kenny had agreed on the need to keep the border “as open as possible” and on the importance of Northern Ireland in the Brexit discussions.However, most observers say it is far from clear how the detail of maintaining an open border between Ulster and the Republic will ultimately be worked out.In a statement following the meeting, Mr Kenny said, “Neither I nor the Prime Minister are in any doubt about the complexities of the negotiations that lie ahead of us all, nor do we underestimate the importance of the issues involved for all of our citizens.“But we face the future together in the knowledge that relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom have never been better and that spirit of partnership and friendship will guide all of our work together in the time ahead.“We reiterated the importance of the partnership between our two governments in supporting the peace process and in contributing to stability and continued progress in Northern Ireland."On her visit to Northern Ireland to meet First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Mrs May found cross-party agreement on the need to protect current border arrangements.Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire said, "I think that the Prime Minister had a really helpful exchange with the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, and I think there is a strong will and strong commitment to not see the return to the borders of the past.“Indeed, that's a theme that underlined discussions that I previously had with the Taoiseach on Friday."Mr Brokenshire added that there were "treaties and various other mechanisms" in place that underscored the "different arrangement" between the UK and the Republic of Ireland compared with that between the UK and the rest of the EU.Mr McGuinness said he hoped there would be an "arrangement which will see the people of the north of Ireland continuing to see their future in Europe as part of an imaginative solution."Gavin Robinson, Democratic Unionist MP for East Belfast, said, "So far, discussions have focused on the movement of people. There will also need to be a discussion about the movement of goods, customs and whether or not there is a form of a single market or not, whether there is a disparity in tariffs or not, and, if that is the case, then how you control that."So whilst I see no difficulty in getting an arrangement that builds on the Common Travel Area and that allows you and I to move freely into the Republic of Ireland, and similarly people from the Republic of Ireland can move freely into the United Kingdom, knowing that we have a uniform immigration policy, it may well be that further discussions will need to take place."

Related Articles