The Argus - - NEWS - Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter, Theresa May.

It’s been many years since a speech by a sit­ting Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter held such sig­nif­i­cance for Dun­dalk and the en­tire border area.

When Theresa May took to the podium at an iron­i­cally named ‘Global Britain’ event in Lon­don last week, to make what was dubbed her key­note speech on ‘Brexit’ there was a col­lec­tive in­take of breath across Ireland, and nowhere more so than in this area.

The open border, which in this area links Dun­dalk and Newry, has been a cen­tral part of the peace process, lead­ing to the free move­ment of peo­ple, goods and ser­vices across the is­land of Ireland.

A highly val­ued free­dom which is a liv­ing re­al­ity for the younger gen­er­a­tion who re­mem­ber no other ex­is­tence, it was thrown into jeop­ardy by the votes cast in Britain last June.

Since the shock vote by Britain to leave the UK, there has been in­ces­sant spec­u­la­tion as to what this will mean for Ireland’s border with the north of Ireland, and con­stant con­jec­ture about threats to the cur­rent free flow­ing cus­toms ar­range­ments.

Theresa May’s speech was meant to - fi­nally - put us all out of our mis­ery and lay out the plan for Britain’s exit, in­clud­ing what is likely to hap­pen to the only part of the UK (po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing aside) which shares a land border with Europe.

But what fol­lowed were more of the prom­ises we have heard time and again over the last seven months, prom­ises which Mrs. May sim­ply can­not keep.

She re­stated a com­mit­ment to avoid­ing the ‘ bor­ders of the past’ in Ireland, and said that she in­tends to make main­tain­ing the Com­mon Travel Area be­tween Britain and Ireland a key ob­jec­tive in the ne­go­ti­a­tions with the EU.

Speak­ing about the Ir­ish border, she said: ‘ The fam­ily ties and bonds of af­fec­tion that unite our two coun­tries mean that there will al­ways be a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship be­tween us.’

‘So we will work to de­liver a prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion that al­lows the main­te­nance of the Com­mon Travel Area with the Repub­lic, while pro­tect­ing the in­tegrity of the UK’s im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.’

But as she spelt her de­sire to take Britain out of the sin­gle mar­ket and the cus­toms union, it be­came clear that a border in some form is in­evitable.

Her po­etic words about the his­toric links be­tween Ireland and Britain meant lit­tle when she con­ceded that a ‘ hard Brexit’ was on the cards.

It was not only re­al­is­tic, but within hours it was dubbed ‘an il­lu­sion’ to sug­gest that Ireland will have any­thing less than a manned border.

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