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No 'border of the past' for Northern Ireland after Brexit, vows British PM

The British Prime Minister has agreed with her Irish counterpart that Brexit should not lead to a "border of the past" for Northern Ireland.

The UK's only land border with an EU country, the Republic, is in Northern Ireland.

During the Troubles it was subject to heavy security and major disruption because of the violence.

Theresa May said a key objective is to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU which gives the UK the widest possible access for trading with and operating within the EU.

She said: "The Taoiseach and I, and all parties, are absolutely on the single page on this that we want to ensure that we have the best possible arrangement that does not lead to a border of the past for Northern Ireland."

A study by the Irish Economic and Social Research Institute has warned that Brexit could reduce bilateral trade flows between Ireland and the UK by 20% or more.

Trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is worth around 2.5 billion euro (£2.2 billion) per year, and the Republic continues to dominate Northern Ireland's export market, accounting for about 37% of the total, worth 4.1 billion euro (£3.6 billion) per year, a recent report from the UK's Institute of Directors said.

Mrs May was replying to Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as he asked if the UK will pay to access the single market post-Brexit.

She said: "Access to the single market is exactly what I was talking about yesterday in my speech.

"One of the key principles, key objectives, is that we negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union that gives us the widest possible access for trading with and operating within the European Union.

"He talks about frictionless access - this was actually a separate point, which is about frictionless borders in relation to the customs issue, a very important issue for us in relation to our relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland."

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