The Prime Minister travelled to Northern Ireland today. She gave a speech in Belfast, where she reconfirmed her commitment to avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland. Theresa May used the opportunity to thank businesses who had supported her initial backstop plans, and to explain her plan to win over the EU and the Commons.
Given that the Commons has already voted in favour of the government finding “alternative arrangements” to the backstop, you could be forgiven for assuming that Theresa May was going to Northern Ireland to discuss the potential alternatives to the backstop. But, in her speech today, the Prime Minister explained that she is instead seeking changes to the backstop, and is not planning on removing it from her Brexit deal.
Mrs. May is no doubt giving in to the stubborn nature of the European Union after being told that the backstop is a necessity. I wonder whether her working group back in London know about that. Possibly not, given the press reported today that Downing Street had said the government is still considering alternatives.
In a bid to try and prove UK-Irish relations are as strong as ever, the Prime Minister also used her trip to Northern Ireland to float the possibility of a joint UK and Ireland bid for the 2030 World Cup. May said that the ties of “family and friendship” between the UK and Ireland are more important than ever, and that she would work with Irish leader Leo Varadkar to get the respective football associations to approve the idea.
So all in all, a bizarre kind of day for the Prime Minister. She stood up in front of the UK press, announced that she wouldn’t be seeking to remove the backstop despite what the Commons has already told her, and that she wants to improve UK-Irish relations through football.