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British PM Meets Irish and Northern Irish Officials

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheal Martin are seen at Hillsborough Castle, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Aug. 13, 2020.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled to Northern Ireland Thursday where he held talks with his Irish counterpart and other Irish officials to promote British unity and a strong rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Johnson met Irish Prime Minister – also known in Ireland as Taoiseach - Micheal Martin, arriving at Hillsborough Castle and bumping elbows with each other for reporters. It was the first time the two leaders had met in person since Martin was elected to his position as part of a new Irish coalition government in June.

A short time later, Johnson also met with Northern Ireland's first minister, Arlene Foster, and her deputy, Michelle O'Neill.

Relations between Johnson and Northern Ireland have been strained after years of sometimes acrimonious negotiations regarding Britain’s departure from the European Union, commonly known as “Brexit.” Johnson was a strong proponent of the plan, while, in a 2016 referendum, Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, 56 to 44 percent.

Following their talks, Martin told reporters he and Johnson both agreed on the necessity for a free trade agreement with the EU that would be “tariff and quota-free.” The Irish leader said Johnson was “very committed” to reaching a comprehensive agreement with the alliance.

Talks between Britain and the EU have stalled but are scheduled to begin again in Brussels next week.