The free movement of Irish and British citizens across whatever border will exist between Northern Ireland and the Republic will continue, a government minister has promised.

Worcester’s Conservative MP Robin Walker is Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union - meaning he’s third in charge at David Davis’ department.

After the apparent collapse of talks to secure a deal on the status of the border in Ireland following the intervention of the Democratic Unionist Party - whose 10 MPs are needed for the survival of Theresa May’s minority government, Mr Walker emphasised the government’s commitment to Northern Ireland.

He said: “The best deal for Northern Ireland is to remain part of the UK, it can’t be carved out of the UK.

“Under the Good Friday agreement there has been North and South co-operation on things like energy and animal safety standards and we want that to continue.

“The common travel area, which allows Irish citizens to travel to the UK freely and for British citizens to go just as freely to the republic of Ireland dates back to 1922 and the creation of the Irish Free State and we want that to continue.”

The DUP’s insistence that it would not support any arrangements on trade that put Northern Ireland as a special case distinct from the rest of the UK means that any agreement in Ireland must also apply to the rest of the UK.

Mr walker said: “We want to avoid a border where people are stopped and we need a new customs arrangement to avoid a hard border, and we all need to work on the solution, everyone in parliament needs to work on the right deal with the EU for the right solution for the whole of the UK.

“There has been a lot of work done over decades to improve relations between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and we want to be good neighbours to them and they want to be good neighbours to us. But the republic recognises we’ve made the sovereign decision to leave the EU and we both need to work together to sustain that relationship.”

Some commentators have pointed out a seeming irony on the DUP demanding no ‘regulatory divergence’ form the rest of the UK on trade with the EU, when it opposes measures such as legal abortion and gay marriage in Northern Ireland, which are legal in the rest of the country.

Mr Walker didn’t shy away; he said: “The Conservatives organised and stood in elections saying we wanted to bring these measures to Northern Ireland- it reflects our values and things we’ve brought into legislation.

“But Northern Ireland is a devolved region, and that’s not going to change, but I think that sometimes it’s worth expressing our difference on these issues.”