Border between Ireland and UK should change as little as possible - Theresa May

The UK PM is visiting Northern Ireland for Brexit talks

Border between Ireland and UK should change as little as possible - Theresa May

British Prime Minister Theresa May (centre) with First Minister Arlene Foster (left) and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont Castle in Belfast | Image: Charles McQuillan / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The British Prime Minister Theresa May says the UK's relationship with the Republic of Ireland should continue to be in everyone's benefit after leaving the EU.

Mrs May has said any talks on leaving the European Union must take into account Northern Ireland's land border with the south.

Mrs May, who is in Northern Ireland for the first time since becoming prime minister, is meeting the First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont.

She said: "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."

And she has suggested there should be as little change as possible to the border.

In the EU referendum last month, Northern Ireland voted to stay in by 56% to 44%.

Political leaders have said there is no appetite for a return of watchtowers on the Irish border.

Potential legal challenge 

People and goods going between Northern Ireland and the Republic have been able to move freely thanks to the common travel area (CTA).

The open borders agreement, set up in the 1920s, has been strengthened by both Britain and Ireland's European membership.

However, questions and concerns have been raised about what this means for the CTA and for both economies in the wake of the UK's Leave referendum result.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's former justice minister David Ford is among a cross-community group of politicians and human-rights activists whose lawyers have written to Mrs May urging her to consider the peace process and other unique requirements before triggering Article 50 - the mechanism to leave the EU.

Solicitors have threatened to take a judicial review before the High Court in Belfast - and ultimately to Europe's highest court - unless Mrs May addresses legal obligations they say she must meet, including gaining the consent of the Stormont Assembly.