Reuters reports that Northern Ireland’s first minister has resigned in protest at post-Brexit trade rules. It came a day after another minister tried to halt some checks on agri-food goods coming from the rest of the United Kingdom, drawing European Union anger.
Paul Givan’s decision may complicate talks between the EU and Britain to rework a politically divisive Northern Ireland protocol governing such trade that was agreed by London as part of its exit from the EU two years ago.
The protocol kept Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods in order to preserve a politically sensitive open border with EU member state Ireland. In so doing, though, it created an effective border in the Irish Sea, angering pro-British, pro-Brexit unionists in the province and spurring the British government to seek to rewrite the deal it signed up to.
Tensions over the arrangements flared again on Wednesday when Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots, like Givan a member of the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), ordered a halt to checks on the agri-food goods
Poots’ attempt to stop some goods checks at customs points drew warnings to desist from Ireland, Germany and the European Commission, the EU executive.
“It’s an absolute breach of international law,” European Union financial services commissioner Mairead McGuinness, Ireland’s representative on the executive, told national broadcaster RTE.