Sunday 22 April 2018

Remain supporter Brokenshire gets North ministry

James Brokenshire. Photo: PA Wire
James Brokenshire. Photo: PA Wire

Dean Gray

Remain campaigner James Brokenshire has been appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland after Theresa Villiers left the position.

Brokenshire is the MP for Old Blexley and Sidcup and was previously the Minister for Security and Immigration.

He said he was "delighted and honoured" to be offered the role.

"I want to pay the fullest tribute to my predecessor, Theresa Villiers, who worked tirelessly for the people of Northern Ireland. As a result of her success in negotiating the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements, Northern Ireland is stronger and politics more stable than for many years."

The new secretary of state shares the view of the majority of the North's voters - as Brokenshire campaigned to remain in the EU. The fallout created by the EU referendum will top the agenda for the 48-year-old former Home Office minister as he takes the reins at the Northern Ireland Office.

Concerns about the status of the border after Brexit, and whether free movement of people and goods will be affected, have dominated recent political discourse across the island.

Ms Villiers made the announcement that she had left the role and said she had turned down a job offer from new UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

She said: "I regret to say that I have left the government. The new prime minister was kind enough to offer me a role but it was not one which I felt I could take on," she said.

As a vocal Leave advocate, Ms Villiers had faced calls to quit as Northern Ireland secretary following the vote, with Sinn Féin among critics who claimed her position was untenable, given that 56pc of the region had backed Remain.

However, the Tory MP had expressed a desire to continue in the post, highlighting that she was on the same side of the EU argument as Democratic Unionist Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster.

Mr Brokenshire supported Ms May's bid to become Tory leader while Ms Villiers backed Andrea Leadsom.

Mr Brokenshire, a married father of three, arrives at the NIO after six years at the Home Office, where he held a number of posts, including Immigration Minister.

DUP leader Ms Foster congratulated the new incumbent at Stormont House.

"Looking forward to working with you," she tweeted.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "I warmly congratulate James Brokenshire on his appointment as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and hope to have the opportunity of an early meeting with him."

Irish Independent

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