May at pains to promise she’ll never allow hard border

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The prime minister’s speech was designed to reassure those in Northern Ireland concerned about her plan to try to re-open the Withdrawal Agreement.

On more than one occasion she reiterated her promise not to allow a hard border to be erected between the island of Ireland and the north, vowing that she will never let it happen.

Theresa May knows she has to win political backing for her mission to change the agreement struck with Brussels.

She must change the agreement because parliament has rejected it and won’t accept it in its current form.

But she knows going back to Brussels brings back major concerns about things like citizens’ rights, immigration and border control – issues many thought had already been settled.

The prime minister said the UK’s relationship with Ireland is closer than with any of the other EU27 countries and in an unusual move called for more discussion between the two nations about their shared history.

She also, tellingly, issued a warning that any new technological arrangements or alternatives to the backstop will have to work for Northern Ireland as well as Brexit-supporting MPs in London.

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As if she wasn’t already trying to bring enough opposing groups together, this speech showed clearly she understands she must also bring Ireland and the north along with her too.

The tone of the message overall was as much a reassuring pledge as it was a plea to come together.

Towards the beginning she praised the Belfast agreement, which took over 40 years to agree and sign, for the way it brought different traditions together.

It brought those from different sides to a mid-point in a bid to ensure peace by accepting different viewpoints and feelings and allowing them to be heard.

Perhaps this is her own new blueprint for Brexit.

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