Theresa May finally set for first Irish border visit since Brexit vote

PUBLISHED: 11:50 18 July 2018 | UPDATED: 11:55 18 July 2018

Prime minister at time of writing Theresa May

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The prime minister is finally to make her first visit to the Irish border since the Brexit referendum.

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Theresa May had been criticised for not hearing first-hand from locals living on what is to become the UK's only land border with the EU since the vote 754 days ago.

The border remains a crucial sticking point in Brexit negotiations with the EU, amid a dispute on how to maintain free flow of movement across the 310-mile frontier between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Mrs May will meet business representatives on the Northern Ireland side of the border tomorrow.

On Friday she will deliver a speech in Belfast focusing on how her vision of Brexit, outlined in last week's government white paper, will impact Northern Ireland and the border.

"I look forward to hearing views from businesses on the border in Northern Ireland on our departure from the European Union," said Mrs May.

"I fully recognise how their livelihoods, families and friends rely on the ability to move freely across the border to trade, live and work on a daily basis.

"That's why we have ruled out any kind of hard border. Daily journeys will continue to be seamless and there will be no checks or infrastructure at the border to get in the way of this.

"I've also been clear we will not accept the imposition of any border down the Irish Sea and we will preserve the integrity of the UK's internal market and Northern Ireland's place within it."

Mrs May will meet the region's political parties on the two-day trip.

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning devolved government for 18 months due to a bitter fallout between the two biggest parties - Sinn Fein and the Conservatives' "confidence and supply" partners at Westminster, the Democratic Unionists.

Mrs May added: "From the start of the negotiations, the UK government has put Northern Ireland's unique circumstances at the heart of our negotiations. And nothing will undermine our commitment to protecting the Belfast Agreement.

"I also look forward to meeting political parties on working together to restore stable and effective devolved government for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland."

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