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Boris Johnson visits N. Ireland, heart of Brexit battle

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday met leaders in Northern Ireland, the key battleground in Brexit and the focus of increasingly tense rhetoric on both sides of the Irish Sea.

He arrived in Belfast on Tuesday night, amid warnings from Irish leaders that his vow to leave the European Union, with or without a deal, risks breaking up the United Kingdom. Those warnings continued ahead of meetings on Wednesday.

“For everybody across society, Brexit has raised fundamental questions around the wisdom and the sustainability of the partition of our island,” Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of republican party Sinn Fein, told BBC radio.

“In the event of a hard Brexit and a crash Brexit, I don’t know for the life of me how anybody could sustain an argument that things remain the same.”

Johnson will hold talks with Northern Ireland’s main political parties to discuss the restoration of the British province’s power-sharing government, which collapsed in January 2017.

“My prime focus this morning is to do everything I can to help that get up and running again,” Johnson told Sky News television ahead of meetings. But Brexit will dominate the visit.

The Republic of Ireland shares a land border with the province that both sides want to keep free-flowing after Brexit, both for economic reasons and to maintain the delicate peace deal that brought an end to decades of violence between the Irish and British communities.

But post-Brexit, that border will become part of the EU’s external frontier and would legally require policing.

AFP

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