Belfast Telegraph

Brexit Secretary David Davis visits Northern Ireland border for first time

Brexit Secretary David Davis made his first visit to the Irish border on Monday.

Mr Davis visited a number of locations in Northern Ireland as part of his trip.

Among them were Armagh food processing company Linwoods in and a former customs posts in Middletown.

The visit comes as Downing Street insists Britain is sticking by its proposals for keeping the Irish border open after Brexit.

Little agreement has yet been reached on the detail of measures to avoid a hard frontier with checks on goods and services.

Unionists have opposed any solution which would create differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and Prime Minister Theresa May is reliant on Democratic Unionist support in key Westminster votes.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said a backstop, meaning Northern Ireland continued to follow EU rules relating to North-South issues and the all-island economy, was now part of the overall agreement between Britain and the EU.

Chief Executive of Co-Operation Ireland Peter Sheridan accompanied Mr Davis during his trip to the border.

"I showed him the way the border snakes back and forth. I think he was trying to get a feel for the place and the issues the border throws up," Mr Sheridan told the BBC.

"I think he was generally appreciative - he spent time and he wanted to see what I meant when I say the way it meanders.

"I took him down to the bridge (at the border) and showed him how it literally moved 10 fields back away from the road and then back down to the road again and how incredibly difficult to say exactly where that border is in places."

Speaking on Twitter Mr Davis said he was determined not to see a hard border on the island of Ireland.

"Today I started what promises to be a busy week in Northern Ireland.

"As we leave the EU it's essential both the UK and EU do what it takes to keep the border, which I saw this morning, free from physical infrastructure.

"We are determined to get this agreed by October."

Sinn Fein MP Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady criticised Mr Davis for not meeting with local politicians.

"David Davis visits the border but avoids meeting me as local MP. Obviously afraid to face the truth about Brexit," Mr Brady said.

Mr Davis did not meed the media as part of his visit.

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt queried if the DUP were aware of the planned trip.

"How on earth can the Brexit Secretary make his first visit to the border without informing the media, or talking to anyone beyond the head of the Autism Centre in Middletown?," the Strangford MLA said.

"Open, Transparent, Confident in his stance? Not! Did the DUP know he was coming?"

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