Common travel area a Brexit priority, says May

Prime Minister Theresa May speaking at Lancaster House in London on the UK's Brexit strategy
Prime Minister Theresa May speaking at Lancaster House in London on the UK's Brexit strategy

Keeping the common travel area between the UK and Republic of Ireland will be a priority in EU divorce talks, Prime Minister Theresa May has said.

Mrs May used a keynote address on Britain’s Brexit strategy to stress any deal on the sensitive border issue would have to respect the “integrity” of the UK’s immigration system.

The prime minister said: “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.

“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.

“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.”

Responding to the speech, the Irish government said its key objectives were securing trade and preserving the peace process, which included border issues.

“The government is under no illusion about the nature and scale of the Brexit challenge. But it is ready,” a statement by the Irish government said.