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Hard border with Republic would be 'unacceptable to UK government'

By David Young, PA

Published 12/10/2016

Maintaining the soft border on the island of Ireland will be a priority in the UK's Brexit negotiations with Europe, a Government minister has said.

Robin Walker, a junior minister at the Department for Exiting the EU, said the return of physical barriers between north and south would be a "red line".

Mr Walker was appearing before the House of Lords EU Select Committee alongside Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire to discuss the Irish dimension of the Brexit process.

The MPs were questioned at length on the practicalities of maintaining the current open Irish border when it becomes the UK's only land frontier with the EU.

They both reiterated the desire to maintain the almost 100-year-old Common Travel Area agreement that allows free movement of people.

Mr Walker said: "There are very few areas where we have set out very clear red lines ahead of negotiations and this is one of them where we have been clear".

"This is so important that we want to put it right up front and we want to recognise that actually returning to the hard borders of the past wouldn't be an acceptable solution."

Mr Brokenshire said the UK and Irish governments had a shared position on the importance of preserving the current border arrangements.

"We are looking at a UK-wide negotiation here, and that's the important thing to stress, but within that there will be specific factors that will be relevant to Northern Ireland, because of the nature of having the land border with the Republic of Ireland," he said.

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