Northern Ireland’s first minister resigned Thursday in protest over post-Brexit trading arrangements.
Paul Givan was in his post for just eight months, and local media reported that the timing of his resignation was coordinated with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to which he belongs.
The DUP supports Northern Ireland’s continued existence inside the UK and opposes reunification with the Republic of Ireland.
“Today marks the end of what has been the privilege of my lifetime — to serve as the first minister of Northern Ireland,” Givan said in his resignation statement.
“When I first entered the assembly 12 years ago, I never expected to have the opportunity to lead the government and serve the people of Northern Ireland as first minister.
“Holding this office is one that comes with a heavy responsibility, and I have often felt the weight of this burden, to do what is right for all our people.”
His resignation is part of a wider range of political actions being taken by the DUP to protest the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The protocol was agreed by the British government as part of its post-Brexit agreement and effectively placed a border in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland. The protocol is vociferously opposed by the DUP and other Northern Irish unionists.
Yesterday, DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots ordered an end to agri-food checks at Northern Irish ports. Today, however, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson announced that checks are still ongoing and that Johnson would like them to continue while talks with the European Union continue.
Reacting to Givan’s resignation, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said it was “extremely disappointing.”
“I urge them to reinstate the first minister immediately to ensure the necessary delivery of public services for the citizens of Northern Ireland,” Lewis added.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the protocol “represents an existential threat to the future of Northern Ireland’s place within the Union.”
Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin called Givan’s resignation a “very damaging move.”
“The protocol is part of an international treaty agreed and ratified by the UK and EU, to protect the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions,” Martin’s spokesperson said.
“The UK has an obligation under international law, and under its own domestic law, to ensure it meets its obligations under the protocol.”
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