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Paul Givan resigns as First Minister of Northern Ireland

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The move comes as part of the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol in Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

Mr Givan’s resignation automatically removes Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill from her job because, under Stormont’s powersharing rules, one cannot hold office without the other.

It comes 24 hours after DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots acted unilaterally to order a halt to agri-food checks required under the post-Brexit trading arrangements. Civil servants have not yet implemented the instruction and checks are continuing.

“Today marks the end of what has been the privilege of my lifetime, to serve as the first minister of Northern Ireland,” Mr Givan told a press conference.

“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 Government 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.”

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, an MP in the DUP, claimed the protocol represents an “existential threat to the Union”.

He added: “Even the European Union has returned to the negotiating table and published proposals of its own. We have made progress in focusing minds on this and on the difficulties that this protocol is causing for Northern Ireland.

“I am convinced that it is only through our determination that the UK Government and the EU are back at the negotiating table.”

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