Prime Minister Theresa May has arrived in Northern Ireland for talks with the region’s political leaders on the fall-out from the EU referendum result.
Mrs May is meeting Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont Castle, Belfast.
In Northern Ireland 56% voted to Remain and the UK-wide vote to Leave has triggered intense political wrangling in the region. The result has sparked a renewed debate on a potential referendum on Irish reunification with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state.
The Stormont Executive is divided on the EU issue, with Mrs Foster’s Democratic Unionists backing Brexit and Mr McGuinness’s Sinn Fein advocating Remain.
Ahead of her visit, Mrs May insisted the UK’s departure from the European Union must work for Northern Ireland.
She said Brexit talks will take into account Northern Ireland’s land border with the Republic of Ireland and Europe, and the potential disruption to the free movement of people and goods.
“I have been clear that we will make a success of the UK’s departure from the European Union,” she said. “That means it must work for Northern Ireland, too, including in relation to the border with the Republic.
“We will engage with all of Northern Ireland’s political parties as we prepare for that negotiation.”
People and goods going between Northern Ireland and the Republic are currently able to move freely due to the common travel area (CTA), which was established in the 1920s.
However, questions and concerns have been raised about what this means for the CTA and for both economies in the wake of the Leave vote.
French President Francois Hollande has said the Irish border will be a special case in the Brexit negotiations.
Mrs May added: “I am delighted to be visiting Northern Ireland. I made clear when I became Prime Minister that I place particular value on the precious bonds between the nations of the United Kingdom.
“I want to assure the people of Northern Ireland that I will lead a Government which works for everyone across all parts of the United Kingdom, and that Northern Ireland is a special and valued part of that union.”