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North Ireland leader ‘to resign’

LONDON (AFP) – Northern Ireland’s First Minister Paul Givan is expected to announce his resignation, media reported yesterday, after a renewed row over post-Brexit trade in the province.

BBC, Sky News and the domestic Press Association news agency quoted an unnamed Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) source as saying Givan could quit as early as yesterday afternoon.

There was no immediate official confirmation from the DUP, which is Northern Ireland’s largest pro-British unionist party.

But its leader, Jeffrey Donaldson, has threatened to collapse the power-sharing devolved government in Belfast in protest at the trading arrangements.

On Wednesday night, the DUP’s Edwin Poots, who holds the assembly’s agriculture portfolio, said he had ordered a halt on port checks of goods from mainland Great Britain. The controls are part of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol to prevent unchecked goods entering the European single market by the back door via neighbouring Ireland.

The DUP claimed the protocol, signed separately from the Brexit trade and cooperation agreement between the United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU), is harming businesses in Northern Ireland. It also argued the Irish Sea checks drive a wedge between it and the three other UK nations, threatening Northern Ireland’s place as part of the whole country.

Poots’ move – branded a “stunt” by opponents – came as UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was due to hold talks with European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic.

Brussels described the move as “unhelpful”, saying it “creates further uncertainty and unpredictability for businesses and citizens in Northern Ireland”.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Paul Givan. PHOTO: AFP