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Ireland flag

Let me start by offering my condolences to the French people following the sickening attack in Northern France this morning.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.

I am delighted to welcome the Taoiseach here today.

It is testament to the importance of the relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland that Enda is amongst the first leaders that I have met since I took office.

In recent years the relationship between both our countries has gone from strength to strength, building on the success of Her Majesty the Queen’s historic visit to Ireland in 2011.

Now, as we contemplate the nature of our bilateral co-operation once the United Kingdom has left the European Union, I want to underline my personal commitment to nurturing this relationship.

We must make a success of Brexit and together ensure that we maximise the opportunities for both our countries.

That’s why our discussions today have focused on Brexit; the particular impact on the Republic of Ireland and what this means for our economic relationship, travel between our countries and the peace process.

And let me say a few words on each.

First, the economic relationship.

Trade between the United Kingdom and Ireland is worth almost £1 billion each week, supporting 400,000 jobs across our islands.

These economic benefits matter to people across both countries. That’s why we have agreed today that we both want to maintain the closest possible economic relationship in the future.

Of course this means there will be a number of complex issues to address. We should take time now to study the options and to strive for practical solutions.

And I have reiterated to the Taoiseach my commitment to involving the Northern Ireland Executive fully in those preparations.

I recognise that one of the biggest concerns for people is the common travel area.

As I said yesterday, we benefitted from a common travel area between the UK and the Republic of Ireland for many years before either country was a member of the EU.

There is a strong will on both sides to preserve it and so we must now focus on securing a deal that is in the interest of both of us.

And alongside this, we should continue our efforts to strengthen the external borders of the common travel area, for example through a common approach to the use of passenger data.

Finally, we talked about the peace process.

It is in all our interests to work together to safeguard our national security and the outcome of the referendum will not undermine it.

We are both fully committed to working together in support of the Northern Ireland Executive to build a better, stronger, safer future for the people of Northern Ireland.

Indeed, it is vital that that we keep up the momentum on tackling paramilitary groups and building a shared future.

And today we have reaffirmed our commitment to establishing a new Independent Reporting Commission by the end of this year, which will support these efforts.

In conclusion, these have been constructive discussions.

We have agreed we will continue to hold annual bilateral summits to strengthen our co-operation.

And it is precisely because the relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland is so deep and so important that there are many issues to resolve as the UK leaves the European Union.

But I firmly believe that we can make a success of Brexit and take our relationship forwards not backwards.

And I look forward to working closely together in the weeks and months ahead to make the most of the opportunities ahead.

14 comments for: May’s statement on the UK-Ireland relationship

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