Hardline Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Brexiteer Paul Givan has been appointed Northern Ireland’s new first minister amid an ongoing row between the UK and EU over the implementation of the post-Brexit protocol for the region.
Givan’s installation as one of the joint leaders of the Northern Ireland government on Thursday comes after the DUP forced its former party leader, Arlene Foster, out of the first minister post over concerns she wasn’t doing enough to oppose the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Following his appointment, Givan is expected to step up criticism of the protocol, although, despite his strong pro-Brexit views, he did not address the concerns about the post-Brexit measures during his first speech in the new role.
Seeking to bridge divisions that emerged within Northern Ireland over the protocol, Givan told the region’s legislature that “we must all recognise that there is much more that we have in common than separates us.”
However, any attempt to strip away the Northern Ireland Protocol will require support from the DUP’s power-sharing partner Sinn Fein, which has so far rejected efforts to undo the measure. After Givan’s speech, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, declared that the measures are “a consequence” of Brexit, which the DUP “championed”.
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The protocol, Article 16 of the Withdrawal Agreement, was agreed as part of the UK’s Brexit deal ahead of its departure from the EU in an effort to prevent implementing a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which is an EU member state. The measure ensures that border checks are not required between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, instead moving inspections to items entering Northern Ireland from Britain.
Local opposition to the protocol spilled out into Northern Ireland’s streets earlier this year in a series of violent protests. Around 90 police officers were injured, 18 people were arrested and 15 individuals were charged following clashes between authorities and members of the loyalist community.
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