Belfast Telegraph

Italy in call over Irish border following Brexit vote

Italy has warned of the "dangerous consequence" of hardening the border in Ireland.

Paolo Gentiloni, Rome's foreign affairs minister, has also called for an orderly and timely withdrawal of Britain from the EU that will leave no room for a "domino effect".

Speaking in central Dublin, where he was holding talks with his Irish counterpart, Mr Gentiloni cautioned against any moves to impose new border controls between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

"We do hope and are confident that the British referendum will not have as a consequence to raise new frontiers, new barriers, new borders in Ireland," he said.

"This would be a really very, very negative and dangerous consequence of the referendum, and I am confident that together we can avoid this kind of consequence."

The 310-mile frontier that separates the island is the only land border between the UK and the rest of the EU.

Although heavily militarised with checkpoints and road closures during the Troubles, the peace process has opened up a seamless crossing between both jurisdictions.

Hundreds of thousands pass over the border every day on their way to work, for shopping or on day trips.

Incoming prime minister Theresa May said during the EU referendum debate it was "inconceivable" that there would not be any changes to border arrangements in the event of a Brexit.

But Mr Gentiloni said the imminent "redefinition" of the relationships between Britain and the EU should not impact on a pre-existing agreement allowing free travel between Ireland and the UK.

The Common Travel Area deal has been in effect since the 1920s.

"I think it can be absolutely maintained, but it is an issue between Ireland and the UK - it is not an EU issue," said Mr Gentiloni, adding: "It is a concern of all of Europe to avoid negative consequences in this particular aspect."

The Italian foreign affairs minister said his country would approach the UK's withdrawal process with an attitude of friendship towards an ally and "very close friend of Italy".

But he added it must be an orderly process that does not take too long.

"We cannot leave any room for a domino effect, or ideas of Europe a la carte, ideas of each single country imagining having a European Union tailor made to their own interest," he said.

"We should, on the contrary, make an effort in the European Union to face the two or three main issues our citizens are asking us to face.

"This means migration, politics for growth and jobs and security. If we give answers on these issues, I think we give to the Union a really serious perspective."

Dublin's foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan said he very much appreciated Italy's understanding of "our unique position on the island of Ireland" which he said must be "fully considered by EU colleagues" in the forthcoming negotiations.

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