Northern Ireland Prime Minister resigned amid Brexit protocol crisis

Paul Givan resigned as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland (REUTERS / Clodagh Kilcoyne) (CLODAGH KILCOYNE /)

The Northern Irish Prime Minister, Paul Givan, announced his resignation, in a context of dissatisfaction of the unionists with the post-Brexit customs provisions in the British province, which they say threaten Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom.

This Thursday “marks the end of what was the privilege of my life, to serve as First Minister of Northern Ireland”declared the president in Belfast.

His resignation entails the automatic fall of the deputy prime minister, Michelle O’Neill, of the republican party Sinn Fein with whom his formation, the DUP (unionist), shares power.

After this news, the president of Sinn Fein, Mary Lou McDonald, has urged the holding of early elections “in the absence of a functioning Executive.” In addition, he questioned Givan for making a decision based on “the own political interests” of the DUP. “We must be clear that the actions of the DUP have consequences.”

The resignation was decided in the wake of the DUP’s rejection of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which introduces customs controls on goods from Great Britain.

In his statement to the media, Givan said Northern Irish institutions are affected by the “delicate balance” which means maintaining the mandate of the peace agreement of Good Friday (1998) and the treaty sealed between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom after Brexit, with the instrument of the protocol as the main problem.

Republicans and unionists share power in the British province in force of the Good Friday Agreement, which ended three decades of conflict between the Republicans (mostly Catholic) and the Unionists (mostly Protestant).

a sign that says
A sign that says “Northern Ireland protocol breaks the Belfast agreement” in the port of Larne (REUTERS / Clodagh Kilcoyne) (CLODAGH KILCOYNE /)

The tensions generated by the customs agreements within the DUP have already forced the former prime minister Arlene Foster, of that formation, to leave the leadership of the Government and the party in April. She was later replaced as prime minister by Paul Givan.

His successor as leader of the DUP, Edwin Poots, threw in the towel after three weeks.

Poots, currently agriculture minister, on Wednesday ordered an end to health checks on food arriving at Northern Ireland ports, a decision both Sinn Fein republicans and the Irish government denounced as a breach of international law. .

The European Union also regretted the decision, which creates “further uncertainty and unpredictability for businesses and citizens in Northern Ireland.”

According to protocol, the British province of Northern Ireland remains within the single European market, which implies carrying out customs controls on goods arriving from the rest of the United Kingdom, a solution that outrages the unionists, attached to their membership of the British crown.

Nevertheless, the new bureaucracy has caused product shortages and political tensions in the region, especially in the unionist-protestant community, which sees its position in the United Kingdom in danger, even more so when Brexit has promoted the historical objective of the nationalists to reunify the island of Ireland.

Demonstrators protest against Brexit on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, in Carrickcarnan (REUTERS / Clodagh Kilcoyne)
Demonstrators protest against Brexit on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, in Carrickcarnan (REUTERS / Clodagh Kilcoyne) (CLODAGH KILCOYNE /)

“The principle of consent is the cornerstone of the Belfast agreement (Good Friday) and it is my sincere wish that all sectors of the community can soon give their consent for the restoration of a fully functioning Executive, through a resolution of the problems that unfortunately have brought us to this point, “he explained. Givan.

That is one of the main sources of tension between Brussels and London.

The British Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, is scheduled to discuss the issue on Thursday in a call with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic.

The European Commission (EC) assured this Thursday that it is up to the UK government to ensure that controls take place on products arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain., as stated in the Brexit agreement.

“The protocol has been signed with the British Government and it is up to the UK Government to ensure compliance with the agreement,” said the chief spokesman for the EC, Eric Mammer, during the institution’s daily press conference.

He stated that Brussels is “monitoring” the situation on the ground, since the Community Executive has “experts” in Northern Ireland to supervise that controls on products arriving from Great Britain are carried out properly.

Eric Mamer, spokesman for the European Commission (EFE)
Eric Mamer, spokesman for the European Commission (EFE) (OLIVIER HOSLET OLIVIER HOSLET/)

In that sense, he indicated that the information “preliminary” that Brussels has received indicates that the controls have not been suspended.

“I don’t know what will happen in the next few days.. What I can say is that the preliminary information we have from our experts on the ground is that checks continue, reported.

Asked if the trade agreement closed with the United Kingdom in 2020 could be suspended in response to the paralysis of controls, contemplated in the Irish protocol of the pact on the British withdrawal from the European Union, Mamer insisted that it is “very clear” that there is an agreement “providing that these checks should take place.”

“I am not going to speculate on what we will do if the controls stop. As I said, for the moment our indications are that the controls are underway,” he stressed.

The spokesman also did not want to speculate on whether Brussels could reactivate the infringement process against the UK for not implementing the Irish protocol, a procedure that was paralyzed last year.

(With information from AFP and EFE)

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