Northern Ireland news

Dominic Raab visits north ahead of Brexit talks intensification

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will visit the north today. Picture by Peter Nicholls/PA Wire

BREXIT secretary Dominic Raab is visiting Northern Ireland today ahead of what is expected to be a crucial few weeks in the negotiations between Britain and the EU. 

Earlier this week Mr Raab told a Westminster committee that he expects a withdrawal agreement in three weeks' time.

However, his department later clarified that there was "no set date for the negotiations to conclude".

Mr Raab travelled this morning to Warrenpoint port, within sight of the Republic and scene of a pre-EU referendum visit by the then Chancellor George Osborne.

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Speaking a fortnight before the UK's June 2016 vote to leave the EU, Mr Osborne warned that Brexit would signal immigration checkpoints, border controls, and an end to free movement.

Mr Raab is expected to provide assurances that there will be no hard border but is unlikely to specify today exactly how that will achieved.

The Brexit secretary is scheduled to meet with business organisations alongside a number of firms involved in cross-border trade. In the afternoon he is expected to meet Stormont's five main parties in Belfast.

In June, the PSNI confirmed that it had halted the sale of Warrenpoint's former police station, alongside two others in Co Tyrone.

The disposal of the disused Co Down station and those in Aughnacloy and Castlederg prompted speculation that they may be put back into operational use for border policing purposes.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council had expressed an interest in buying the former police facility in Warrenpoint, which went on the market in 2016, with plans to turn it into a community centre.

In the absence of a Brexit deal customs officials may have to carry out the checks and will be protected by the PSNI.

Mr Raab's visit to the north coincides with the British-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference (BIIGC) in Dublin, chaired by Tánaiste Simon Coveney and British Cabinet Office Minister David Liddington.

Also in attendance will be the Republic's justice minister Charlie Flanagan and Secretary of State Karen Bradley.

The two governments are expected to discuss efforts to restore the devolved institutions and the implications of Brexit.

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