Britain is committed to preserving its open border with the Republic of Ireland, Prime Minister Theresa May said after meeting Tuesday with Irish counterpart Enda Kenny in the latest round of talks on how to navigate a British exit from the European Union.
"One of the biggest concerns for people is the common travel area," she said during a press conference with Kenny at Downing Street. "There is a strong will on both sides to preserve it, and so we must now focus on securing a deal that is in the interests of both of us."
Kenny echoed May's comments on maintaining the countries' close relations, saying: "We are in full agreement that we do not want to see a return to the borders of the past on the island of Ireland."
Britain and Ireland have had an open borders travel agreement since 1923, shortly after the southern part of the island gained independence from its former colonial power.
Northern Ireland is due to leave the EU alongside other British nations - England, Scotland and Wales - while the Republic of Ireland remains in the bloc. Many fear the open border between the two will have to be fortified, despite Kenny repeatedly promising otherwise.
A common approach to passenger data sharing was mentioned by May as one way to strengthen external borders, who added that the countries enjoyed free movement for many years before either joined the bloc.
"It is precisely because the relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland is so deep and so important that there are many issues to resolve as the UK leaves the European Union," May said, adding that she believed that they could "make a success of Brexit and take ourrelationship forwards, not backwards."
Kenny, who has already met this month with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the implications of Brexit, also invited May to visit Ireland and congratulated her on her new role as prime minister, which she took over from David Cameron on July 11.
Kenny's Downing Street visit comes a day after May pledged during a trip to Belfast to find a "practical solution" to the Irish border after meeting with Northern Ireland's first minister and her deputy.