Northern Ireland first minister Paul Givan has resigned in opposition to the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.
Givan’s departure will also mean that Sinn Féin leader Michelle O’Neill will lose her position as deputy first minister as a part of the rules surrounding Northern Ireland’s power sharing agreement.
It comes after environment minister Edwin Poots told officials last night to stop implementing border checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea, which are a part of the Brexit settlement – a move that has infuriated the EU.
Number 10 today said checks had not been stopped as of yet.
Givan, Poots and the Democrat Unionist Party (DUP) want the Northern Ireland Protocol to be dropped as it creates a so-called border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
“Today marks the end of what has been the privilege of my lifetime, to serve as the first minister of Northern Ireland,” Givan told a press conference today.
“Our institutions are being tested once again, and the delicate balance created by the Belfast and St Andrew’s Agreements has been impacted by the agreement made by the United Kingdom and the European Union which created the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“The consent principle is a cornerstone of the Belfast Agreement and it is my earnest desire that all sections of the community will soon be able to give consent to the restoration of a fully functioning executive through a resolution to the issues that have regrettably brought us to this point.”
Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis said that Givan’s move to try and collapse the Stormont government is “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,” he said.
Lewis added: “I recognise the impact the Northern Ireland Protocol is having on the ground. The UK Government has been clear for some time that the Protocol has been causing serious problems, unbalancing the delicate and hard-won political stability in Northern Ireland.
“We remain fully committed to fixing the problems with the Protocol and to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions.”