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Irish Government reacts to Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech on Brexit

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (centre R) applauds as British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after delivering a speech on the government's plans for Brexit at Lancaster House in London on January 17, 2017. Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday said Britain will leave the EU's single market in order to restrict immigration in a clean break from the bloc, but lawmakers can vote on the final deal. / AFP / POOL / Kirsty Wigglesworth (Photo credit should read KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/AFP/Getty Images)
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (centre R) applauds as British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after delivering a speech on the government’s plans for Brexit in London on January 17. (Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AFP/Getty Images)

THE IRISH Government has welcomed Theresa May’s Brexit speech today saying it provides greater clarity on the proposed approach of the British Government to the Brexit negotiation process.

During her speech the Prime Minister May highlighted the historic relationship between Britain and Ireland as she set out the Plan for Britain, including the 12 priorities that the British Government will use to negotiate Brexit.

“She made clear that her priorities include maintaining the Common Travel Area and avoiding a return to a hard border with Northern Ireland, both of which are welcome,” the Irish Government said.

Speaking about Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister said: “A stronger Britain demands that we do something else – strengthen the precious union between the four nations of the United Kingdom.

“And I hope that same spirit of unity will apply in Northern Ireland in particular over the coming months in the Assembly elections, and the main parties there will work together to re-establish a partnership government as soon as possible.”

Enda Kenny’s Government also laid out its priorities going into the negotiation process.

These include Ireland’s economic and trading arrangements, the Northern Ireland peace process including border issues, the Common Travel Area, and the future of the European Union.

The Prime Minister  pledged to maintain the Common Travel Area with Ireland.

“We cannot forget that, as we leave, the United Kingdom will share a land border with the EU, and maintaining that Common Travel Area with the Republic of Ireland will be an important priority for the UK in the talks ahead,” she said.

“There has been a Common Travel Area between the UK and the Republic of Ireland for many years. Indeed, it was formed before either of our two countries were members of the European Union.

“And the family ties and bonds of affection that unite our two countries mean that there will always be a special relationship between us.

She added: “So we will work to deliver a practical solution that allows the maintenance of the Common Travel Area with the Republic, while protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom’s immigration system.

“Nobody wants to return to the borders of the past, so we will make it a priority to deliver a practical solution as soon as we can.”

The Prime Minister made it clear that Britain’s approach is now firmly that of a country which will have left the EU but one that will look to negotiate a new, close relationship with the European Union.

“While this will inevitably be seen by many as a “hard exit”, the analysis across Government has covered all possible models for the future UK relationship with the EU,” the Irish Government said, adding that it would be intensifying its engagement with all other EU Governments and the EU institutions this year to avoid any damage ot the rish economy.

“The Taoiseach and Ministers will continue to meet and engage with their EU counterparts over coming weeks to emphasise Ireland’s concerns and to ensure that they are fully reflected in the EU position once negotiations commence,” it said.

The Government also spoke of the potential economic opportunities that may arise for Ireland from Brexit in terms of mobile investment.

“Bids for the EU agencies currently located in London – the European Medicines Board and the European Banking Authority have already been announced and the State enterprise agencies are actively pursuing opportunities for increased investment, business and job creation in Ireland,” it said.

“The Government is under no illusion about the nature and scale of the Brexit challenge. But it is ready.”

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