British PM indicates that there will be changes to existing 'invisible' border
Published 26/07/2016 | 02:30
British Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated there will have to be some changes to the border in the wake of the Brexit result.
Ahead of a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in London today, Ms May said that when the UK leaves the European Union "of course Northern Ireland will have a border with the Republic of Ireland".
However, she added: "Nobody wants to return to the borders of the past."
Her nuanced comments are not in sync with the Taoiseach's definitive stance that there "will not be a hard border from Dundalk to Derry".
And Fianna Fáil's foreign affairs spokesman Darragh O'Brien said the new Conservative leader appeared to be "walking a difficult tightrope".
He described her statement after a meeting with members of the Northern Ireland Executive as "ambiguous".
A significant part of Mr Kenny's meeting at No 10 Downing Street today will focus on the potential border arrangements.
Officials in Dublin last night told the Irish Independent that if Ms May wanted to rule out a hard border, "she would have done so by now".
However, they also noted that she has toned down her language on the border issue since the referendum result.
In advance of last month's vote, she said it would be "inconceivable" not to have any changes on border arrangements in the event of a Brexit.
Senior Government sources accepted some changes to the current 'invisible' border may have to occur but insisted a hard border was "not an option".
"One of the models available could be for sample checks at the border, like what happens in EEA countries, and that would allow the vast majority to still drive straight across," said one source.
However, they added that what the UK government wanted from the Brexit negotiations in terms of the border was "only starting to emerge".
The North's First Minister and 'Leave' campaigner Arlene Foster said the DUP wanted to see the free movement of people continue but warned that the "other issue of immigration [must be dealt with] in a very different way".
Mr Kenny will be only the third EU leader to meet with Ms May since her appointment.
Sources noted that she made just three phone calls to foreign leaders in the hours after becoming PM, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and Mr Kenny.
"We are exactly where we want to be in this process. Our unique status has roundly been recognised," said a Government source.
Today's talks will focus on trade, the Common Travel Area and the future of Europe post-Brexit.
It is expected that the two leaders will make a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to the Good Friday Agreement.
In her comments yesterday, Ms May said that she would get "a deal which is in the best interests of the whole of the United Kingdom", adding that Northern Ireland was a valued part of the UK.
However, Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness was notably downbeat after the meeting at Stormont, saying: "There is absolutely no good news whatsoever about Brexit."