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James Brokenshire named Northern Ireland Secretary after Theresa Villiers leaves post and rejects new job offer in Theresa May Cabinet

Northern Ireland in 'more stable' position says departing minister

Published 14/07/2016

James Brokenshire leaves after meeting Prime Minister Theresa May where he was appointed the position of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at Downing Street on July 14, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
James Brokenshire leaves after meeting Prime Minister Theresa May where he was appointed the position of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at Downing Street on July 14, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
James Brokenshire, who has been appointed Northern Ireland Secretary, leaves 10 Downing Street, London, as Prime Minister Theresa May continues to put the finishing touches to her top team. Photo credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Theresa Villiers

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.

Mr Brokenshire said in a statement: "I am looking forward to working closely over the coming weeks and months with the Executive, the Irish Government and the whole community in Northern Ireland to build a brighter, more secure future for everyone."

He also paid tribute to his predecessor, Theresa Villers, who he said had worked "tirelessly for the people of Northern Ireland."

The new secretary of state shares the view of the majority of its voters on the EU as Brokenshire campaigned to remain in the EU.

The fall-out 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 Irish border after Brexit, and whether free movement of people and goods will be impacted, have dominated the political discourse across the island since the UK's historic vote to leave the EU.

As a vocal Leave advocate, Ms Villiers had faced calls to quit as Northern Ireland secretary following the vote, with Sinn Fein among critics who claimed her position was untenable, given that 56% 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 and therefore had no reason to step down.

Old Bexley and Sidcup MP 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.

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

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

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

The Irish Republic's minister for foreign affairs 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.

"The post of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland carries significant responsibilities on important matters that remain within the competence of Westminster, such as security, parades and dealing with the legacy of the past. I wish Mr Brokenshire the very best as he assumes this important responsibility."

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

<< Live updates: Theresa May cabinet reshuffle >>

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.

"I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to serve on the front bench for 11 years, first in the Shadow Cabinet, then as Transport Minister, and finally as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for four years in David Cameron's Cabinet.

"I would like to thank everyone who has supported me during that time. I am sad to bring to end my work in Northern Ireland but I believe that I leave the political situation there in a more stable position than it has been for many years, not least because I was able to to help tackle the crisis which a year ago left us on the brink of a collapse of devolution and a return to direct rule.

"I send my very best wishes to Northern Ireland's leaders as they continue the crucial process of implementing the two historic agreements that the cross party talks I chaired were able to deliver."

She added: "Northern Ireland and its people will always have a very special place in my heart and I am confident that progress will continue to be made to embed peace, stability and prosperity there.

"I wish the Prime Minister well in the great task on which she and her Government are about to embark to seize the many positive opportunities presented by the Brexit vote. They will have my full support in that vital work. I look forward to continuing to represent the interests of my Chipping Barnet constituents in Parliament with enthusiasm and diligence."

Reaction


First Minister Arlene Foster: "Congratulations to James Brokenshire on your appointment as secretary of state for Northern Ireland. Looking forward to working with you."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt MLA said: "I congratulate James Brokenshire MP on his appointment as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and look forward to working with him in the weeks and months ahead.

"We hope to see James actively engage with the Official Opposition as well as the Northern Ireland Executive. I also wish Theresa Villiers well for the future."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood: "The most important issue the SDLP is working on is the campaign to protect Northern Ireland's position in the European Union. In a welcome contrast to his predecessor, Mr Brokenshire was a Remainer, knew the benefits of staying in the EU and the consequences of leaving.

"In his role as secretary of state he must act in the best interests of people of Northern Ireland, and I urge him to listen to his original instincts and ensure the democratic will here is upheld."

Alliance leader David Ford: "I congratulate Mr Brokenshire on his appointment as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, having worked closely with him during my time as minister of justice

"I trust his experience during that period will help him bring a balanced view to the role of secretary of state. Part of that role will be to recognise the majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain within the EU and to start work immediately on the particular circumstances of that.

"That will involve fighting for Northern Ireland in any Brexit negotiations, by articulating he will be an active advocate of the interests of Northern Ireland, both within the cabinet and within EU discussions."

Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan: "The Good Friday Agreement remains the foundation stone for relations on this island. Under the Agreement, the Irish and British Governments have key responsibilities for upholding its principles and supporting its institutions.

"I look forward to working closely with Mr Brokenshire in discharging these responsibilities in the interests of all of the people of Northern Ireland.

"That work assumes even greater importance in the context of the challenges arising from the decision that the UK should exit from the European Union."

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