The importance of a common travel area between Ireland and Britain has to be “protected” at all costs, Taoiseach Enda Kenny will tell British Prime Minister Theresa May at a face-to-face meeting next week.
He will raise the issue as one of the matters of priority at a post-Brexit meeting in London with Ms May.
Alongside new Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire at a meeting of the British-Irish Council in Wales yesterday, Mr Kenny said the common travel area was vital to both countries’ economies, tourist industries, and close relationship.
While accepting post- Brexit changes and difficulties to the way in which Ireland and Britain interact, he said key connections between both jurisdictions will remain and he will firmly resist any attempts to remove them.
“There are thousands of questions that need to be answered here. So what’s the best outcome [from Brexit]? The best outcome is that you have a UK that’s outward looking, that’s prosperous, that has the closest possible links with the EU.
“For us in Ireland that means access to the single market.
“It has been made perfectly clear at the European Council that if that’s [ongoing British access to the single market] to be given, then the respect has to be there for the four freedoms, including the movement of people, And that’s an issue I’m sure James Brokenshire and others will be reflecting on,” Mr Kenny said.
“That’s the nub of this question here. We have difficulties, but I expect that we will be able to retain the common travel area, I think it’s a fundamental part of who and what we are.”
The comment was supported by both Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness at the same meeting yesterday, with the DUP leader saying it was “eminently possible and probable the common travel area will still exist in a meaningful way”.
However, despite the shared stance, Mr McGuinness warned there was alarm in Northern Ireland this may not be the outcome, as EU officials are concerned about the fact a continuation of the common travel area will make it easier for people to slip into the EU.
In a bilateral meeting in Berlin earlier this month, German chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to rule out the possibility of either a soft border remaining between the Republic and Northern Ireland or the common travel area being left untouched by the Brexit fallout.
She said Ireland’s voice will be heard “just as loud” as other members, but declined to support a special deal for this country.
However, in Dublin on Thursday, French president Francois Hollande appeared to support Ireland’s position.
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