Theresa May continues Brexit tour determined to keep 'closest possible relationship' with Ireland

Theresa May continues Brexit tour determined to keep 'closest possible relationship' with Ireland

The new British Prime Minister is continuing her whirlwind diplomacy tour of Europe with a visit to Italy.

Theresa May will meet Italy's prime minister Matteo Renzi in Rome today as part of her drive to engage with European leaders on Brexit.

This will be followed tomorrow by a trip to Slovakia and Poland, where she will hold discussions with Prime Ministers Robert Fico and Beata Szydlo.

It follows yesterday's talks with the leaders of Germany and France last week and Ireland.

A Number 10 spokesman said Mrs May wanted an early visit to Italy after becoming PM earlier this month, because of the close relations it has with the UK.

Thursday's trip to eastern Europe may prove more awkward as Slovakia and Poland are among the EU states most insistent on maintaining free movement of labour, and have also voiced concern about the rights of their nationals currently in the UK.

The countries are part of the Visegrad Four group within the EU which has called for the pace of integration to be slowed in the wake of Brexit.

Slovakia currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council and will host a summit of the remaining 27 states in Britain's absence in September to discuss their approach to the UK's planned withdrawal.

Following Downing Street talks yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said London and Dublin are agreed that there will be no return to a "hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Mr Kenny said he and Mrs May are both against creating a post-Brexit string of customs posts on the island of Ireland.

Mrs May said she is determined to maintain "the closest possible relationship" between the UK and the Republic following Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

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