Government watches Theresa May for position on North

Incoming prime minister warned of controls along the Border during Brexit campaign

Many British politicians who took the Remain side in the referendum are stepping away from dire warnings they made about the consequences of leaving the EU.

Chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne’s hairshirt Brexit budget has not appeared for one thing. The Bank of England has said it is working with the treasury to mitigate any negative impact on the economy.

Irish Government officials are watching closely to see if incoming prime minister Theresa May has anything further to say about the implications for the Border which she warned about during the campaign.

At a campaign event, May warned that 50,000 jobs in the North are linked to EU trade. "In so many ways, the economic argument for Remain is particularly strong in Northern Ireland, " she said.


Her warnings about the implications for the Border caught the notice of the Irish Government. She said it was “inconceivable” there would be no changes to arrangements between the North and the Republic in a Brexit.

Ms May acknowledged the Common Travel Area existed before the EU but said if there was a Brexit some form of controls would be inevitable.

“It is inconceivable that a vote for Brexit would not have a negative impact on the North/South Border bringing cost and disruption to trade and to people’s lives,” she said.

"Put simply, Northern Ireland outside the EU could not prevent free movement and continue with an open North/South Border."

Maintenance of the Common Travel Area, the status of the Border and protecting Ireland-UK trade are priorities for the Irish Government.

Agree priorities

This will require a process with the British government and


government to identify issues and agree priorities, sources say. That engagement is already under way. Last week officials from the home office were in Dublin meeting Irish counterparts.

Ireland will also seek to influence the negotiations between the EU and the UK.

While the North will not be at the top of the May’s in tray, Irish Government sources say that, having been home secretary, she has an good understanding of Border issues.

She also has a good relationship with Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, both women having worked on justice and home affairs on the EU Council of Ministers. The Taoiseach is likely to seek an early meeting with Ms May.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the appointment of Ms May will present difficulties to the peace process and Anglo-Irish relations. He said David Cameron had not fulfilled his obligations under the Belfast Agreement, Stormont Agreement or Fresh Start Agreement.

“I have argued the [Irish Government] needs a consistent strategic view and a programme to deal with the British government,” he said. “I regret to say the focus has not been there.”