No hard border for Ireland, vows UK's Brexit Minister
Published 01/09/2016 | 02:30
Brexit Minister David Davis has promised there will be no "hard border" in Ireland as he flies into the North for talks today.
Mr Davis - who was in favour of Brexit - said he wanted to "reach out" to parts of the UK like Northern Ireland which did not support withdrawal from the EU.
He said: "We had a common travel area between the UK and the Republic of Ireland many years before either country was a member of the EU.
"We are clear we do not want a hard border - no return to the past - and no unnecessary barriers to trade.
"What we will do is deliver a practical solution that will work in everyone's interests, and I look forward to opening the conversation about how that should operate with my colleagues today."
Mr Davis is due to meet First Minister Arlene Foster and Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir today - though not Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who is on holiday.
Then he and Secretary of State James Brokenshire are to attend the inaugural meeting of the NI Business Advisory Group which is to help provide an ongoing dialogue with industry.
Writing in the 'Belfast Telegraph' this morning, the cabinet minister argues: "We need to hear what people want our new relationship with Europe to look like."
Mr Davis attempts to respond to the concerns raised in a letter sent to British Prime Minister Theresa May by Mrs Foster and Mr McGuinness which included the border, trading costs, the energy market, drawdown of EU funding and treatment of the agri-food sector.
He says: "I will ensure that Northern Ireland's voice is heard as we work towards a Brexit deal that enables every part of the UK to build on what it has achieved and embrace the new opportunities that we know will arise.
"Theresa May signalled her government's commitment to such an approach when she came here on one of her first visits on becoming prime minister.
"She said then, and I reiterate it now: 'Brexit means Brexit' and we are going to make a success of it. There won't be a second referendum - the people of the UK have spoken, and delivered a bigger mandate than that given to any prime minister in any general election in history. We must have a UK-wide approach as we prepare for negotiations on our new relationship with the EU."
But he also insisted that he will work closely with the Irish Government when it comes to thrashing out the implications of Brexit.
"As we make the transition to longer-term arrangements, we will ensure the devolved administrations are involved in discussions over how they will work.
"We are already working with the Irish Government and I firmly believe this process will take our relationship forwards, not backwards.
"The United Kingdom is a great and strong country with a bright future and Northern Ireland plays a huge part in its success."