Theresa May will be followed by Remain and Leave MPs from the Alternative Arrangements Working Group (AAWG) – who have united to push for their ‘Plan C’ solution, known as the ‘Malthouse Compromise’. The AAWG, which is headed up by the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, has proposed to delay UK’s exit from the EU until 2021 and change the backstop if no trade deal is struck by the time the transition period runs out.
I know this is a concerning time for many people here in Northern Ireland
It is thought the AAWG will be in Belfast tomorrow, Wednesday February 6.
The Prime Minister will reassure the people of Northern Ireland that she understands it is a “concerning time” but “we will find a way to deliver Brexit” that avoids a hard border with Ireland.
She will give a speech in Belfast today before meeting business leaders. Tomorrow she will meet with the DUP.
She is facing demands from opposition leaders to get rid of the backstop from her Withdrawal Agreement, but Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney has said alternatives to the backstop are “wishful thinking”.
Mrs May is due to say: “I know this is a concerning time for many people here in Northern Ireland.
“But we will find a way to deliver Brexit that honours our commitment to Northern Ireland, that commands broad support across the community in Northern Ireland and that secures a majority in the Westminster parliament, which is the best way to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland.
“As we do so, I hope we can also take steps to move towards the restoration of devolution – so that politicians in Northern Ireland can get back to work on the issues that matter to the people they represent.
Mrs May will add: “The measure of this moment in Northern Ireland’s history must be more than whether we avoid a return to the challenges of the past.
“It must be how, together, we move forwards to shape the opportunities of the future.”
The backstop is an insurance policy, designed to avoid a hard border “under all circumstances” between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
However, there are fears the UK could be trapped in this arrangement indefinitely, anchoring it to the customs union, which will hinder making international trade deals.
The Labour Party’s Brexit spokesman MP Keir Starmer said a backstop was an inevitable part of a Brexit deal.
The Dutch foreign minister Stephen Blok has said it was “not reasonable” to expect there will be a completely different outcome to what has already been negotiated for the Brexit deal.
Following her trip to Northern Ireland, Mrs May will got to Brussels to take any new deal to the EU bigwigs of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk.
However, the EU has previously said that they refuse to reopen talks on the backstop.
MPs voted last week to say they would only back Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement if the backstop was replaced by “alternative arrangements”.