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Brandon Lewis talks to Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill

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Media captionBrandon Lewis: The first tasks ahead of new NI secretary

The first and deputy first ministers spoke to the new Northern Ireland secretary on Friday morning.

As part of Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle on Thursday, Brandon Lewis replaced Julian Smith.

Mr Smith had helped to restore power-sharing at Stormont but was fired after just 204 days in the job.

Arlene Foster said she hopes Mr Lewis will cement the administration in NI, while Michelle O’Neill said an urgent meeting had been agreed with the SoS.

He is due in Belfast on Friday afternoon.

The Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill said there were a number of issues to be discussed with Mr Lewis.

In a tweet, Mr Lewis said he was “looking forward” to his new role.

He also spoke to the tánaiste (Ireland’s deputy prime minister), who worked with Julian Smith to form New Decade, New Approach, the document which restored power-sharing at Stormont.

Mr Lewis had a “very useful catch up” with the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Simon Byrne.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four DUP leader, Arlene Foster, said: “It’s not for Sinn Féin to decide whether a border poll happens or not – it’s for the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, if he looks at Northern Ireland decides that there has been a change.”

Image copyright Charles McQuillan
Image caption Julian Smith (left) helped to restore power-sharing at Stormont

She added: “Actually the change has been in the opposite direction and the union needs to be underscored as the best for all of the people of Northern Ireland.

“To do that, Brandon Lewis has to be an advocate for the union and I very much hope that he is.”

Mr Lewis is a former chair of the Conservative Party and, most recently, a security minister in Boris Johnson’s cabinet.

He has been the MP for Great Yarmouth on the east coast of England since 2010.

He campaigned for Remain in the EU referendum in 2016 but later said he would support leaving the EU as he was “first and foremost a democrat”.

Last year, during an interview with the BBC, Mr Lewis said that after Brexit checks on some goods leaving Great Britain for Northern Ireland would be required if those goods were then destined to leave the UK.

But he disputed the accuracy of a leaked government document that stated customs declarations checks would be highly disruptive and separate Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

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Media captionBrandon Lewis: ‘We are not going to have a border down the Irish sea’

Mr Lewis becomes the fourth Northern Ireland secretary in four years. His three most-recent predecessors are:

  • James Brokenshire – appointed in July 2016
  • Karen Bradley – appointed January 2018
  • Julian Smith – appointed in July 2019

Source : BBC News – UK Politics | NewsColony: Politics

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