No return to ‘hard’ Border after Brexit, Taoiseach says

Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK will survive, Kenny insists

The Common Travel Area between Ireland and the United Kingdom will survive Brexit and there will be no return to a hard Border on the island of Ireland, the Taoiseach has said.

Speaking in Cardiff after an emergency meeting of the British-Irish Council to discuss Brexit, Mr Kenny said a return to border checkpoints would be unacceptable.

“We have difficulties but I expect we’ll be able to retain the Common Travel Area. It’s a fundamental part of what we are and I do not see in any circumstances – and I would resist this at the European Council – the return of hard borders between the Republic and Northern Ireland,” he said.

Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire said there was a shared determination between London and Dublin to achieve the best possible outcome from Britain’s EU withdrawal negotiations.

“I do not want to see a return to the borders of the past. I think that there is a real strength of purpose, a real strength of will, between the UK government and the Irish government around this, a real sense of what we need to achieve together, the importance of this for both of our nations in the context of Northern Ireland in particular.”

Established by the Belfast Agreement, the British-Irish Council brings together the British and Irish governments, the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, and the crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

In last month’s Brexit referendum, majorities in England and Wales voted to leave the EU, while most people in Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain. Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man did not take part in the referendum but Britain’s withdrawal from the EU has potentially serious consequences for all three.

British prime minister Theresa May said last week she would not invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty, to start formal exit talks, until there is an agreed “UK approach” to the negotiations.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said in Cardiff yesterday (Friday) that she wanted a formal process of consultation leading up to any move to trigger Article 50.

Ms Sturgeon last week suggested one feasible option would see Scotland and Northern Ireland remaining in both the EU and the UK after Brexit. This would see England and Wales leaving the EU, while the other constituent parts of the UK would remain.

The proposal has been dubbed the “reverse Greenland” option, because Greenland left the EU in 1985 but remained an autonomous territory within Denmark, which stayed in the EU.

“In these unprecedented times, I think it is important that we are prepared to think about unprecedented solutions to the circumstance we find ourselves in,” Ms Sturgeon said yesterday.

Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones said there was no reason why, if the EU was willing to show flexibility, the constituent nations within the UK should not have different relationships with the EU.

The Taoiseach declined to be drawn on the idea of Northern Ireland remaining in both the EU and the UK after Brexit.

“I will argue the case for Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom to be as close to the European Union as possible. That’s the best outcome we could have. It was also made clear at the European Council that if Britain wants access to the single market, it has got to respect the four fundamental freedoms, one of which is the free movement of people,” he said.