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British PM to visit Northern Ireland border

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-07-18 19:36

LONDON - British Prime Minister Theresa May is to visit the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland during a two-day tour, Downing Street announced Wednesday.

The future of the border is one of the hottest topics in the debate about Britain's departure from the European Union, with the post-Brexit fate of the 500-kilometer border still to be decided, and remains one of the major headaches in negotiations with Brussels.

May has insisted there will be no land border, nor a border in the middle of the Irish Sea which would separate the British mainland from the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley will accompany May.

During her visit, May is scheduled on Thursday to visit a border area to meet with businesses to listen to their views on what working, living and trading across the border means to them, and discuss their views on Britain's exit from the EU.

May will use the visit to reaffirm her commitment to a Brexit that avoids a hard border and protects the Belfast peace agreement, said 10 Downing Street.

In a keynote speech Friday in Belfast, May is to emphasize her personal commitment to the strength of the four parts of Britain and the solutions set out in her White Paper Brexit blueprint that address Northern Ireland's unique circumstances.

On restoring devolved government to Northern Ireland, May is to meet with leaders of the main political parties. The power-sharing Northern Ireland assembly has been suspended for more than 18 months following a major rift between the two main parties, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein.

May will also meet young people in Belfast and speak to them about their vision for Northern Ireland's future.

Ahead of her visit, May said: "I fully recognise how livelihoods, families and friends rely on the ability to move freely across the border to trade, live and work on a daily basis. That's why we have ruled out any kind of hard border. Daily journeys will continue to be seamless and there will be no checks or infrastructure at the border to get in the way of this."

May said she will not accept the imposition of any border down the Irish Sea, adding the government and will preserve the integrity of Britain's internal market and Northern Ireland's place within it.

"From the start of the negotiations, the UK Government has put Northern Ireland's unique circumstances at the heart of our negotiations. And nothing will undermine our commitment to protecting the Belfast Agreement," added May.

EU rules require a border between members of the bloc and neighboring non-members.

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