May to give speech on trip to Northern Ireland underscoring her commitment to avoiding hard border

Theresa May will insist she can find a way to deliver a Brexit deal that can win the backing of MPs when she visits Belfast in an attempt to reassure businesses and politicians in Northern Ireland she can break the deadlock in Westminster.

The prime minister is due to chair a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning before departing for a two-day visit to Northern Ireland to underscore her commitment to avoiding a hard border.

She is expected 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 commitments to Northern Ireland … that commands broad support across the community in Northern Ireland … and that secures a majority in the Westminster parliament.”

But privately there is scepticism among many in government about the prospect of a breakthrough before the prime minister returns to parliament to make a statement about her Brexit plans on 13 February. “She’s just burning down the clock,” said one cabinet source.

Downing Street said it was still planning to give MPs the chance to vote on the government’s intentions on 14 February following rumours in Westminster that it could be pushed back into the following week. “That’s the deadline we’re working to,” said a government source, adding there had been “no change”.

While May is in Belfast – where she is also expected to meet leaders from Northern Ireland’s political parties, including Sinn Féin – an “alternative arrangements working group”, made up of Conservative backbenchers, ministers and civil servants will reconvene in Westminster.

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