BELFAST, July 25 (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May visits Northern Ireland on Monday to discuss the implications of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union and what Brexit will mean for the province’s border with Ireland.
The June 23 vote to leave the EU has raised questions over the future of the open border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, which will become Britain’s only land frontier with the bloc.
Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU, with 56 percent voting ‘Remain’, putting it at odds with the United Kingdom’s 52-48 percent result in favour of leaving.
May, making her first visit to Belfast since she was made prime minister earlier this month, will meet the province’s leader, Arlene Foster.
May said the Brexit process needed to work for every part of the United Kingdom, and that she would work with all of Northern Ireland’s political parties.
“I have been clear that we will make a success of the UK’s departure from the European Union,” May said ahead of the visit in a statement released by her office.
“That means it must work for Northern Ireland too, including in relation to the border with the Republic.”
Leaders north and south of the Irish border want to ensure that people and goods can continue to cross freely, as well as maintaining decades of open travel and trade across the Irish Sea that predate the countries’ simultaneous accession to the EU in 1973.
May is also due to meet the province’s deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, who has demanded a referendum on Northern Ireland splitting from the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union as part of a united Ireland, a call rejected by the British government.
“I am going to make it very clear that the people of Northern Ireland took a democratic decision in the referendum to see our future in Europe and that has to be respected,” McGuinness told Irish state broadcaster RTE in an interview on Monday.
“The British government, who appear determined to exit Europe, need to take account of the special circumstances that exist here in the north,” McGuinness said.