Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster set to step down over party issues

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster talks during a television interview outside the Stormont Parliament building in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Arlene Foster is to step down as Northern Ireland’s First Minister at the end of June, bowing to pressure from members of her Democratic Unionist Party unhappy at her leadership over Brexit and social issues.

Her announcement adds to instability in the British province, where angry young pro-British loyalists have rioted over the perceived growing power of Irish nationalists and post-Brexit trade barriers with the rest of the United Kingdom.

Foster, who has led its largest pro-British party for more than five years, said in a statement that she would also step down as party leader on May 28.

She described her leadership of Northern Ireland as “the privilege of my life.”

The announcement comes a day after a majority of DUP lawmakers signed a letter seeking a confidence vote in Foster amid discontent over her leadership, including her perceived mishandling of Brexit negotiations.

Foster has called on the European Union and Britain to scrap the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has imposed trade barriers that led to some supermarket shortages and a number of British companies ceasing deliveries to the region.

While the European Union has said it will not consider scrapping the Protocol, some party members have demanded a harder line.

Some party members have also complained that she is too liberal for the DUP, one of the most socially conservative political parties in the United Kingdom.

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