'Difficult to imagine' NI in single market post-Brexit

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image captionJames Brokenshire met leading EU figures, including Michel Barnier and Phil Hogan, in Brussels

The secretary of state has said it is "difficult to imagine" Northern Ireland remaining in the EU's single market and customs union after Brexit.

James Brokenshire is in Brussels to update leading EU figures on Stormont's current political situation

He is also discussing Brexit issues affecting Northern Ireland as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

Mr Brokenshire was speaking after a meeting with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier.

In a speech he repeated the government's commitment to protect the Good Friday Agreement, the Common Travel Area and the UK's own single market.

He reiterated that the government would seek to apply similar food safety standards to the EU and would explore whether the EU could continue to fund projects in Northern Ireland.

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image captionNorthern Ireland has been without an executive since January

The latest talks to restore a power-sharing executive at Stormont ended without agreement last week.

On Monday morning the Northern Ireland secretary met the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Phil Hogan said it had been a "good meeting" and highlighted the importance of agri-food in Ireland.

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The Conservative minister will also meet Sir Julian King, the British European commissioner, to discuss the latest security developments in Northern Ireland, and Phil Hogan, the European commissioner for agriculture and rural development, to discuss Northern Ireland's agricultural interests in regards to Brexit.

MEPs will also be updated on efforts to restore an executive at Stormont.

Mr Brokenshire said his Brussels visit comes "at an important time".

"Negotiations are under way and we want to secure an agreement that delivers for all parts of the UK, including Northern Ireland," he said.

"I am fully committed to ensuring that, as negotiations progress, the interests of Northern Ireland are protected and advanced, through the development of specific solutions to address its unique circumstances.

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image captionMichel Barnier is the EU's chief Brexit negotiator

"Of course it would be better if there were an executive in place, with whom we could also engage directly, and that is why we are working to ensure the resumption of stable devolved government in Northern Ireland."

Northern Ireland has been without an executive since January, when the governing parties - the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin - split in a bitter row over the handling of a botched green energy scheme..

The government has said it will implement a budget for the region, as the parties continued failure to establish an executive means public services are starting to run out of money.

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