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First meeting

'No return to borders of the past': Enda and Theresa take first steps into uncertain future

Enda Kenny and Theresa May have held their first meeting since May became Prime Minister.

Updated at 3.15pm

Britain Ireland Theresa May and Enda Kenny meet on Downing Street. Matt Dunham Matt Dunham

ENDA KENNY HAS held his first meeting with Theresa May since the former UK Home Secretary took over as Prime Minister earlier this month.

The new PM, who campaigned to remain in the European Union in June’s referendum, said during the Conservative leadership contest that “Brexit means Brexit” – going on to appoint three leading ‘Brexiteers’ to key roles in her new Cabinet.

She’s been on a diplomatic tour in recent days as the UK plans its departure from the EU, however.

Last week, she announced alongside Angela Merkel in Berlin that she wasn’t going to bow to calls to immediately trigger article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would formally kick off the two-year exit process.

And meeting with Northern Ireland’s First and Deputy First Ministers in Belfast yesterday, she insisted that “nobody wants to return to the borders of the past”. There have been concerns from political and business leaders that border controls could be reintroduced in the wake of the Brexit result – potentially harming the peace process.

No divisions 

Echoing the Prime Minister’s language this afternoon, the Taoiseach said in a statement that “we are in agreement that we don’t wish to see any return to the borders of the past on the island of Ireland”.

Kenny, who was the first foreign leader to visit Downing Street since May’s appointment, said it had been a good meeting, and that they had discussed issues like jobs, trade and tourism in addition to reaffirming their commitment to the peace process.

“We also discussed the many issues that arise in the context of the outcome of the recent UK referendum on EU membership,” Kenny said.

“While it is not the outcome that we in Ireland wanted, we fully respect the democratic vote of the people of the United Kingdom.

“We will work with the Prime Minister and all our partners in the EU and in the Northern Ireland Executive to make sure we achieve the best possible outcome in forthcoming negotiations.

We agreed that we would work together to ensure that the benefits of the peace process are preserved in any new arrangements which might emerge regarding the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the EU.

There would be complex issues to address in the coming negotiations, Kenny said – stressing that he wanted the process to end with “a prosperous and outward-looking UK which retains a close relationship with the EU”.

“Neither I nor the Prime Minister are in any doubt about the complexities of the negotiations that lie ahead of us all, nor do we underestimate the importance of the issues involved for all of our citizens.

But we face the future together in the knowledge that relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom have never been better and that spirit of partnership and friendship will guide all of our work together in the time ahead.

- with reporting by Cormac Fitzgerald 

Read: Theresa May: “Nobody wants to return to the borders of the past.” 

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