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May would 'not allow anything to damage integrity of precious union'

The PM also stated the UK will 'help find a solution' to the Irish border issue

Theresa May has said in her keynote speech to EU leaders she would not "allow anything that would damage the integrity of our precious union".

She also addressed the issue of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, saying the UK had a responsibility to "help find a solution".

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the speech "set forward the basis upon which it would be possible to move forward".

In the high-profile speech at London’s Mansion House, the Prime Minister set out five “foundations” to underpin the new relationship – including binding commitments to fair competition and a new arbitration mechanism to resolve disputes.

She repeated her “red lines” that the UK will leave the single market and customs union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, but she also spelt out greater details on the customs arrangements Britain wants to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Declaring that she was “confident” that a deal is “achievable”, Mrs May said her message to Brussels was: “We know what we want. We understand your principles. We have a shared interest in getting this right. Let’s get on with it.”

On Northern Ireland, she said: "Successive British governments have worked tirelessly together with all the parties in Northern Ireland and with the Irish government to bring about the historic achievement of peace.

"This is an achievement that we should all be proud of and protect. That is why I have consistently put up holding the Belfast Agreement at the heart of the UK’s approach. Our departure from the EU causes very particular challenges for Northern Ireland and for Ireland.

"We joined the EU together 45 years ago and it’s not surprising that our decision to leave has caused anxiety and a desire for concrete solutions.

"We have been clear all along that we don’t want to go back to a hard border in Ireland.

"We have ruled out any physical infrastructure at the border or any related checks and controls.

"But it isn’t good enough to say: ‘we won’t introduce a hard border, if the EU forces Ireland to do it that’s down to them’. We chose to leave, and it’s our responsibility to help find a solution. But we can’t do it on our own, it if for all of us to work together."

On maintaining the union, she said: "I want to make one final point. Just as it would be unacceptable to go back to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, it would also be unacceptable to break up the United Kingdom’s own common market by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish sea.

"My personal commitment to this is clear, I’m not going to let our departure from the European Union do anything to set back the historic progress that we have made in Northern Ireland. Nor would I allow anything that would damage the integrity of our precious union.

Below is how the keynote address unfolded

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