Taoiseach becomes first foreign leader to visit Theresa May

British and Irish leaders to defend Common Travel Area in negotiations about Brexit

Taoiseach Enda Kenny travels to London this morning for a meeting with British prime minister Theresa May, at which the two leaders will discuss the need to protect the Common Travel Area (CTA) between Ireland and the UK, in the negotiations about Brexit with the EU.

Both British and Irish governments have been hardening their stance on the need to protect the CTA in the past week, and official sources on both sides say there is a strong commonality of interests emerging between the two countries as politicians, officials and diplomats around the EU seek to arrange the next steps in the wake of the British decision to leave the EU.

Special recognition

Mr Kenny

has been increasingly blunt about the need to protect the CTA between the two countries, telling the French president


Francois Hollande

last week that the imposition of a “hard” EU border in Ireland would not be acceptable.

British sources said they expected the two leaders to agree on the need to keep the Border “as open as possible” and on the importance of the North in the Brexit discussions.

Senior Irish officials are happy they have succeeded in inserting the peace process and the special position of the North into discussions about Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU. However, most say it is far from clear how that will ultimately work out.

It is not expected that there will be a joint statement from the two leaders today, though officials expect Mrs May to express her awareness of the special position of the North. High-level sources acknowledge that the two governments are likely to seek special recognition for the North, in any future agreement between the UK and the EU that would preserve present trade and free movement arrangements.

The Irish Government is certain to support Britain remaining a member of the single market in future, though other EU leaders have said that this is contingent on the British government maintaining the free movement of EU workers into Britain.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times