Brexit

Theresa May vows no hardening of frontier during visit to Fermanagh/Donegal border

British prime minister Theresa May and DUP leader Arlene Foster visit Belleek pottery factory in Co Fermanagh yesterday PICTURE: Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA

THERESA MAY has moved to assure people living on the border that her plan for Brexit will ensure no hardening of the frontier.

The British prime minister made the comments during her first visit to the Irish border since the Brexit referendum.

“We've produced a proposal which would enable us to have a free trade area between the UK and the EU and a customs arrangement that would mean people here would continue to be able to trade seamlessly across the border and there will be no hard border, that's what we want to see,” Mrs May said.

She toured the Belleek Pottery factory in Co Fermanagh, meeting workers and business representatives from both sides of the

border.

DUP leader Arlene Foster whose 10 MPs prop up the Tory minority government at Westminster, had extended an invite to Mrs May to visit her Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency on what was the first of a two-day schedule of events in the north.

Mrs May had previously faced criticism for failing to hear first-hand from locals living and working near what is to become the UK's only land border with the EU.

Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O'Neill, above right, branded the visit “too little, too late”.

“She is coming two years after the referendum, she is coming two years after negotiating with her own party,” she said.

“I am quite clear what she will hear today – she'll hear about the catastrophic implications of

Brexit, the fear and trepidation of the business community in terms of what comes next for them.

“We can't withstand being outside the customs union and the single market.

“Theresa May needs to realise that we will not be collateral damage her for own reckless Tory agenda.”

The border remains a crucial sticking point in Brexit negotiations with the EU, amid a stand-off between the UK and Brussels on how to maintain free flow of movement across the 310-mile frontier

Mrs May said: “I've been

hearing and talking to people about the impact on Northern Ireland previously, I wanted to be here today as one of the things

underpinning the work that we did on the White Paper was the

need to ensure that we not just had no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland but also no border down the Irish

Sea.

“It's important that Northern Ireland as part of the UK can trade within our own internal market in the UK, so we have put forward a proposal that would deal with that issue and would deliver no hard border.”

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