PRIME Minister Theresa May has told this newspaper that she is “absolutely committed” to ensuring there is no hard Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

During a visit to Belleek on the Fermanagh-Donegal Border this evening, Mrs. May met with residents and members of the business community to hear first hand the thoughts and fears of local people ahead of Brexit.

Mrs. May was accompanied on the visit by Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster whose party props up the U.K. government.

Afterwards the Prime Minister spoke exclusively to The Impartial Reporter in which she asked if she realised that many people in Fermanagh believe that Brexit will be a “disaster” for the Border area.

In response, Mrs. May reiterated her vision for Brexit, saying “there will never be a harder Border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.” 
Mrs. May said the U.K. Government “will not countenance the EU's proposal of a customs Border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK”, adding that it would also be “a clear breach of the Belfast Agreement and would prevent Northern Ireland from having a voice in trade negotiations.”

"No Prime Minister could ever accept this as an option for the people of Northern Ireland,” she said.
Mrs. May added: “First of all can I say we are absolutely committed that there is no hard Border in Northern Ireland and Ireland at all.”

“Speaking to Fermanagh hotels, food producers, council representatives, business leaders and others, it was clear how a hard Border between Ireland and Northern Ireland or a hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, could never be acceptable to them. 

 “I would say to people I think there are huge opportunities for Northern Ireland and the whole of the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union – we could be striking trade deals around the rest of the world. There are great products here in Northern Ireland that could be.. we want to encourage more export so people can see the prosperity that that brings,” she said.

Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew, who met with Mrs. May in Belleek today, described her party’s relationship with the DUP earlier as “toxic.” Asked if she agreed with this description given that the deal between the two parties has attracted criticism, Mrs. May said: “No, we have a good relationship with the DUP.”

“Together we have delivered important legislation and within that confidence and supply agreement there are commitments in place to provide funding for Northern Ireland, in terms of infrastructure projects, money for health and so on. Working with the DUP is delivering for people here and across the U.K,” she said.

With mounting pressure on Mrs. May from members of her own party this week many are wondering if her days in power are numbered. When asked if she will survive this, Mrs. May chuckled and said: “I have got an important job to do delivering Bexit but also delivering the opportunities for the future and that’s what I am getting on with.”

More from our interview with Prime Minister Theresa May in The Impartial Reporter.