Theresa May assures Irish News readers that cross-border travel will remain 'seamless'
British Prime Minister Theresa May insists there will be "no checks" on people travelling across the Irish border after Brexit and that travel between the north and south will "continue to be seamless".
The Tory leader's reassurance over cross-border travel comes in one of eight answers to questions about Brexit submitted by readers of The Irish News earlier this week.
Notably however, Mrs May does not defend her Brexit Secretary David Davis, who unlike his EU counterparts has not visited the border region and has only been to Northern Ireland once since the June 2016 referendum.
The questions pitched by readers in an exercise unprecedented for a newspaper in Ireland, addressed many aspects of Brexit, including cross-border trade and travel, the potential for a second referendum, and the apparent surge in support for Irish unity as a consequence of last year's EU referendum.
Asked by Co Armagh student Katie Moore whether her daily commute to university in the Republic will "encumbered with border checks post-Brexit", the prime minister insists not and argues that there will be no hindrance on the millions of cross-border journeys every year.
"But I know this is about more than just travel," Mrs May says.
"It is also about the deep cultural and symbolic bonds of identity for Irish and British citizens who live on either side of the border that is rooted in generations of family history – I want you to know these rights will be protected."
Challenged by Co Down reader Patric Harris on the possibility of a second referendum on EU membership, the Tory leader insists there will be no opportunity in the foreseeable future for the electorate to reaffirm or overturn the June 2016 result.
"It is important that as prime minister, I respect the decision of the people of the UK as a whole who voted to leave the European Union," she responds.
"That is why I have always said there will be no second referendum."
John Austin from Limavady took up a theme recently highlighted in The Irish News by asking why Brexit secretary David Davis had not visited the border region.
Eamon Cassidy from Co Tyrone sought the prime minister's opinion on the belief that any hardening of the border will lead to increased support for a united Ireland, among "moderates" of both a nationalist and unionist persuasion.
The Tory leader said she recognised that the border is a "deeply emotive issue" and she again insists there will be "no hard border or physical infrastructure".
Sadly however, the central question about whether Brexit itself inadvertently threatens the union, is avoided.
One of the most pointed contributions came from Kieran Kennedy, managing director of Strabane-based sportswear manufacturer O'Neills, who sought reassurances about how his cross-border business could operate unimpeded and without tariffs when the UK leaves the Customs Union and single market.
But while acknowledging how important the concerns raised by the Co Tyrone business owner are, Mrs May is unable to provide any firm answers. She does, however, restate that the "whole of the UK will be leaving the single market and the Customs Union".
"In the report we agreed with the European Commission earlier this month, I made clear that our preference is to ensure we achieve the solutions that we want for Northern Ireland as part of our overall relationship with the rest of the EU," the prime minister says.
"If we cannot do that we will look to agree specific solutions to address the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland. Failing that, we have said the UK Government will ensure full alignment in those areas that are crucial to cross-border cooperation."
When asked by Sarah Hughes from Belfast how she can promote Brexit when ahead of the referendum she advocated remaining in the EU, the Tory leader says it is important that the decision of the UK as a whole is respected.
Responding to Maire Gratton's question on what would indicate a successful Brexit, the prime minister says leaving the EU will make the UK "stronger, fairer and more global".
In her response to Belfast reader Eugene McGoldrick's query about where a non-EU citizen entering the Common Travel Area via the Republic and planning to journey on to Scotland would have their documents checked, Mrs May says checks would take place on entry to Ireland only.
"There aren't any immigration controls between Belfast and Scotland because this is a domestic route," she adds.