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Brandon Lewis confirmed as new Northern Ireland Secretary of State

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Newly appointed Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis leaving Downing Street, London, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson reshuffles his Cabinet. Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Newly appointed Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis leaving Downing Street, London, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson reshuffles his Cabinet. Aaron Chown/PA Wire

PA

Newly appointed Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis leaving Downing Street, London, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson reshuffles his Cabinet. Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Brandon Lewis has been confirmed as the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, replacing Julian Smith.

The former Conservative Party Chairman had been Minister of State for Security in the Home Office before Thursday's cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He said he was honoured to take up the position.

"This is an exciting time for Northern Ireland and I follow fantastic colleagues, whose work I hope we can build on," he tweeted.

Mr Johnson's decision to unceremoniously sack Julian Smith was met with shock by Northern Ireland's political sphere, who paid tribute to the outgoing NI Secretary for his work in reviving the Stormont institutions.

Mr Lewis worked his way up from councillor to Conservative Party Chairman, first being elected in 1998.

He became MP for Great Yarmouth in 2010 and became Minister for Housing and Planning in 2014.

Mr Lewis was appointed Minister for Policing and the Fire Service and Minister for Immigration by former PM Theresa May.

While Minister without Portfolio in 2018 Mr Lewis visited the Irish border and met with business leaders to discuss their Brexit concerns.

In December he rejected claims by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that Mr Johnson's Brexit withdrawal deal would lead to a trade border in the Irish Sea.

Mr Smith had been expected to remain in post, having been widely praised for his work since becoming Northern Ireland Secretary.

However, disputes with the Prime Minister around the damage a no-deal Brexit would cause to Northern Ireland are thought to have been his undoing.

It is also thought he clashed with the Mr Johnson over legacy provision in the New Decade, New Approach deal.

Tributes were paid to Mr Smith from across the political spectrum when news of his departure was confirmed on Thursday morning. His 204-day tenure was the second shortest on record for a NI Secretary.

Mr Smith said serving the people of Northern Ireland had been "the biggest privilege".

"I am extremely grateful to Boris Johnson for giving me the chance to serve this amazing part of our country. The warmth and support from people across NI has been incredible. Thank you so much," he said.

Belfast Telegraph