I am delighted to be in Dublin today. It is the third time I have met the Taoiseach since I became Prime Minister, and indeed the third time we have spoken in the past month.
This is testament to the unique relationship between the UK and Ireland. Family ties and bonds of affection unite our 2 countries and I am personally committed to strengthening our relationship as the UK prepares to leave the EU. We are leaving the EU but not Europe.
We will stay reliable partners, willing allies and close friends with our neighbours, when we have so many values and interests in common.
I know that for the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland the ability to move freely across the border is an essential part of daily life, which is why the Taoiseach and I have both been clear that there will be no return to the borders of the past.
Maintaining the common travel area and excellent economic links with Ireland will be important priorities for the UK in the talks ahead. Together we trade €1.2 billion worth of goods and services every week. No one wants to see this diminished.
The Taoiseach and I both reaffirmed our commitment to the Belfast Agreement and its successors, including Stormont House and Fresh Start. An explicit objective of the UK government’s work on Brexit is to ensure that full account is taken of the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland.
I am pleased that already, our European partners have demonstrated a clear understanding of the acute need to find a solution for Northern Ireland and Ireland so that thousands of our citizens can continue to move freely across Ireland every day. I want the reciprocal rights that our citizens enjoy in both countries to continue, including the rights guaranteed under the Belfast Agreement.
But I also recognise that when the UK leaves the EU, Ireland will remain a member state and it is something I fully respect. It remains overwhelmingly and compellingly in the UK’s national interest that the EU, with Ireland in it, should succeed and prosper.
Today we have committed to building on the track record of strong co-operation generated by our bilateral work programme. It’s important to me that, while we have plenty of work to do to deliver a smooth exit for the UK from the EU, we do not lose sight of the close links that benefit citizens in both countries.
And so we have agreed to continue our bilateral work programme on a wide range of issues some of which have been mentioned by the Taoiseach.
And of course discussed the political situation in Northern Ireland. Both the Taoiseach and I have been unequivocal in our support for the political process as the Northern Ireland parties navigate this electoral period. The difficulties we face today are serious and it is fundamentally important that we work with Northern Ireland’s political leadership to seek a solution.
The Northern Ireland Secretary will be fully engaged over the next few days and months with the aim of ensuring that, once the election is over, a stable devolved government is established that works for everyone. I welcome the commitment of the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, in supporting that objective.
Our discussions here in Dublin today have been very constructive. And I’m sure we will continue the close level of cooperation and friendship between the UK and Ireland in the coming months and years ahead.