Britain, Ireland agree to work together to smooth post-Brexit trade

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheal Martin are seen at Hillsborough Castle, in Belfast
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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain and Ireland will work together to maintain smooth trade between Britain, Northern Ireland and Ireland, the leaders of Britain and Ireland said on Friday after meeting at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's country residence.

Since Britain completed its exit out of the European Union at the end of last year, ties between the two have soured, especially over parts of their agreement governing trade between Britain and its province of Northern Ireland.

Negotiations between the two sides over how to stop any disruption in trade between Britain and Northern Ireland have so far failed to produce any solutions but London may hope EU member Ireland could help move those talks along.

Johnson and Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin agreed "on the importance of working together to uphold the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and to maintain smooth trade between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland", a spokesperson for Johnson's office said in a statement.

The Belfast or Good Friday Agreement ended three decades of violence between mostly Catholic nationalists fighting for a united Ireland and mostly Protestant unionists, or loyalists, who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The peace accord took centre stage in the Brexit talks, with both sides agreeing to an open Irish land border to help safeguard peace, free trade and travel on the island. But the deal also meant that Northern Ireland effectively stayed in the EU's single market for goods, meaning checks at its ports.

The two leaders also agreed it was "profoundly sad" that the families of victims had to wait so long for the truth over the deaths of 10 people killed in a 1971 incident in Belfast during a British Army operation, the spokesperson said.

On Wednesday, Johnson apologised "unreservedly" on behalf of the government after a judge-led inquiry found that British soldiers unjustifiably shot or used disproportionate force in the deaths of nine of the 10 people killed in the incident.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Alistair Smout)

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