Brexit BOMBSHELL: Now Northern Ireland could get independence referendum to leave UK

"We also have an important responsibility to make sure that nothing is done to jeopardise the peace process in Northern Ireland, and to continue to uphold the Belfast Agreement".

But Minister Charlie Flanagan has said Ireland's position on negotiations is now with the other 26 European Union countries.

Mr Kenny welcomed the fact that Theresa May had made reference to the importance of protecting both Northern Ireland and Ireland in her letter but he added that "a country can't be seen to be advantaged by leaving" so negotiations would have to take account of that. "Failure to do so could impose severe penalties on Northern Ireland's population and its economy".

James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland secretary, said that Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party would have a "short window" to resolve their differences and that there would be "consequences" unless a new powersharing government was swiftly formed.

"We know that, for the people of Northern Ireland, the ability to move freely across the border is an essential part of daily life".

The letter also says that in considering the replacement of European Union funding the government is "aware of the importance attached to those programmes which have had unique resonance in Northern Ireland".

On the land border with the Irish Republic his letter said the Government wanted to avoid creating any new burdens that put Northern Ireland's businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

Under the terms of the Good Friday agreement of 1998, the British government is legally obliged to offer Irish voters a reunification poll should there be clear evidence of public support for the plan.

Northern Ireland voted 56 to 44 percent to remain in the European Union in last June's referendum but the United Kingdom as a whole voted to leave.

  • Leroy Wright