No return to border controls in Northern Ireland, UK PM May says | News | DW | 25.07.2016
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No return to border controls in Northern Ireland, UK PM May says

By leaving the EU, Northern Ireland faces new border issues with the Republic of Ireland. On her first visit to the province, the UK's new prime minister sought to calm fears of a return to the "Troubles."

UK Prime Minister Theresa May (C) meets Minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster (L) and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuiness (R) in Northern Ireland.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May (C) meets Minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster (L) and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuiness (R) in Northern Ireland.

The June 23 vote which saw a majority (52 percent) of UK voters choose to leave the EU - and a minority (44 percent) in Northern Ireland - has raised questions about cross-border movement that have laid dormant for 18 years.

The Northern Ireland-Eire (Republic of Ireland) border is Britain's only land frontier with the EU.

Britain and Ireland share an open-border Common Travel Area (CTA) dating back to the 1920s. The legal status of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement - which ended three decades of struggle between Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists in which 3,600 died - has been questioned since Brexit.

May adamant

"We had a common travel area between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland many years before either country was a member of the European Union. Nobody wants to return to the borders of the past," May - who has put British unity at the heart of her premiership - said.

Police dressed in riot gear attempt to contain disturbances along the controversial Ardoyne flashpoint area on July 13, 2015 in Belfast.

Police dressed in riot gear attempt to contain disturbances along the controversial Ardoyne flashpoint area on July 13, 2015 in Belfast.

"What we do want to do is to find a way through this that is going to work, deliver a practical solution for everybody to ensure that we come out of this with a deal which is in the best interests of the whole of the United Kingdom."

Back to the future

May met the province's leader, Arlene Foster, a Brexit supporter, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, a former Irish Republican Army commander and Remain supporter.

McGuinness wants a referendum on Northern Irish separation from the UK so it can remain in the EU as part of a united Ireland. "There is no good news whatsoever in Brexit for anybody in the North," he said.

Leaders in Eire have been seeking support across the EU to preserve freedom of movement and goods, but have acknowledged that controls at Northern Irish ports and airports may be needed.

Watch video 03:20

Northern Ireland faces uncertain future

jh/kms (Reuters, AFP)

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