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BBC Radio Ulster said Paul Givan had written his resignation letter, which is expected to be made public later © Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Northern Ireland’s first minister is said to have been set to tender his resignation amid an escalating row over controls on food and farm products entering the region from Britain under post trade rules -Brexit.

BBC Radio Ulster today reported that the Democratic Unionist Party’s Paul Givan, who leads the power-sharing executive, had written his letter of resignation and was due to be made public later by DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. It was not immediately clear whether the resignation would take effect immediately.

There was no immediate confirmation from the DUP, but the possibility of his withdrawal from the Stormont executive, in which he governs alongside the nationalist Sinn Féin party, has been flagged in recent days by Donaldson.

Givan’s exit would trigger that of Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s deputy first minister, a few weeks before regional elections on May 5. Other ministers would remain in place but the budget, which is under consideration, would be suspended.

The possibility of Givan’s departure came hours after Edwin Poots, the DUP’s agriculture minister, ordered a halt to agricultural checks on goods from midnight. The DUP spearheaded Unionist opposition to Brexit-imposed Irish Sea border controls – under arrangements known as the Northern Ireland Protocol – to avoid a return at a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The transporters, speaking after talks with British and Northern Irish officials, confirmed that agricultural checks had not yet been halted. John Martin of the Road Haulage Association said officials from the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture were taking legal advice on the order, which contravenes the UK’s EU Withdrawal Agreement.

Doug Beattie, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said removing Givan from the executive would create further destabilization and “in the end the protocol will still be there”.


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