LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May heads to Northern Ireland today in a bid to bring the province into the fold on Britain’s negotiations to exit the EU.
May was due in Belfast for talks with Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Forster and her deputy, Martin McGuinness.
Cross-border relations with the Republic of Ireland are a prime concern for Northern Ireland in Britain’s departure from the European Union.
It is the United Kingdom’s only land border and would become its only frontier with the EU when Britain leaves the bloc.
Britain and Ireland share an open-border Common Travel Area that dates back to the 1920s, continuing arrangements from before Irish independence.
However, questions and concerns have been raised about what Brexit would mean for the CTA and for both economies on the island of Ireland.
"The PM 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 EU, recognising the particular circumstances that affect Northern Ireland -- including around the border," May’s office said in a statement.
May took office on July 13 after David Cameron resigned following the June 23 referendum.
While a majority across the kingdom voted for the UK to leave the EU, a majority in Northern Ireland, as within Scotland and in London, voted for the UK to stay.
May has put British unity at the heart of her premiership. Since taking office, she has already visited Scotland and Wales.
"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," May said in the statement.
On Friday, Foster and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said Brexit must not mean the establishment of a "hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. "Hard borders would not be accepted in the south or the north," said Kenny.
"We have difficulties but I expect us to retain the Common Travel Area.
"It’s a fundamental part of who we are." — AFP