Belfast Telegraph

Enda Kenny backs Theresa May's 'friction-free' trading goal post-Brexit

Mr Kenny and Mrs May insisted they do not want to see a return to the "border of the past" between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

Ireland has backed Theresa May's goal of securing a "friction-free" trading relationship with the European Union after Brexit.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said helping the UK Prime Minister agree a deal to keep UK-EU trade as close as possible would be an "absolute priority" for Ireland ahead of Brexit negotiations.

Setting out her strategy earlier this month, Mrs May strongly hinted that Britain could leave the European customs union (CU), stating she wanted "frictionless" cross-border trade, but had an "open mind" on whether it should be done through associate membership or a new agreement.

Speaking after talks with the PM in Dublin, Mr Kenny echoed her language, suggesting he would support the strategy during divorce talks.

"Our two governments are agreed that a close and friction-free economic and trading relationship between the Untied Kingdom and the European Union, including Ireland, is in our very best interests," he told a press conference.

"And as the UK prepares for its formal notification under Article 50, we want to see that these deep trading ties between our two countries are recognised and facilitated.

"That will continue to be an absolute priority for my government, not just in our discussions with the British Government, but also with our EU partners as we prepare for the negotiation process on the EU side of the table."

Both Mr Kenny and Mrs May have insisted they do not want to see a return to the "border of the past" between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

There have been suggestions that leaving the tariff-free customs union could imperil the soft border and see the reintroduction of customs checks and controls unless an agreement can be reached.

Mrs May said staying fully in the customs union would leave the UK unable to agree free trade deals with other countries from around the world, which she is aiming to do.

But she said she was working towards maintaining the border rules currently in place and stressed that Britain and Ireland had open borders "long before either of us were members of the European Union".

"We have of course said we do not want to see a return to the border of the past - that isn't just a phrase, actually it symbolises the sort of seamless, frictionless border that we want to see in the future," the PM said.

"Of course there are elements of full membership of the customs union that would restrict our ability to trade and do trade agreements with other parts of the world.

"But I believe, and this is what we are working on, that we need to find a solution which enables us to have as seamless and frictionless a border as possible between Northern Ireland and Ireland so that we can continue to see the trade, the everyday movements, that we have seen up to now.

"And of course we also want to ensure that we carry on with the Common Travel Area, which was in existence long before either of us were members of the European Union or its predecessors."

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