New Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire.Story Worldwide / Wikimedia Commons

James Brokenshire has been appointed as the British Government's new Northern Ireland Secretary. He was offered the position by the new Prime Minister of Great Britain Theresa May following the resignation of Theresa Villiers.

Brokenshire has been the Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Old Bexley and Sidcup, in the south east of London, since 2010. He previously worked closely with May during his time as Immigration Minister.

During the recent campaign over the referendum to leave the European Union Brokenshire voted in favor of remaining. This will be his first cabinet position.

Brokenshire attracted attention following the Brexit referendum campaign, during a Commons debate, when he refused to offer a guarantee that European Union nationals would be allowed to remain in the United Kingdom.

“The prime minister has been clear that decisions on issues relating to the UK’s exit from the EU will be for a new prime minister,” he said.

“I’m therefore not in a position to make new policy announcement this afternoon.”

He continued by saying that the matter would be decided by a reciprocal arrangement with EU countries. “This would be unwise without a parallel assurance from European governments regarding British nationals living in their countries,” he said. “Such a step might also have the unintended consequence of prompting EU immigration to the UK.”

Speaking about Brokenshire's new appointment Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he hoped to meet with the new Secretary soon.

“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,” he said.

“The post 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.”

Flanagan added that the Good Friday Agreement remains the foundation stone for relations on the island of Ireland.

“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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Theresa Villiers resigned from the position of Northern Ireland Secretary earlier on Thursday. She also declined the offer of a role from the new Prime Minister Theresa May. Upon leaving her post she said she believes that Northern Ireland is more stable than it has been in years.

Theresa Villiers.

Theresa Villiers.

Villiers, the former Transport Minister, went four years in the Northern Ireland Office. She also said she is confident that further political progress would be made at Stormont to solidify peace in Northern Ireland.

"I regret to say that I have left the Government," she said.

"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."

Villiers, a vocal supporter of the Brexit campaign faced calls to quit her position as Northern Ireland Secretary. Sinn Fein were among her strongest critics. They claimed her position was untenable seeing as 56 percent of the people of Northern Ireland voted for Britain to remain in the EU.

The British province of Northern Ireland is the only land frontier between Britain and the European Union. The Irish government is seeking support to ensure the freedom of movement of goods across the island of Ireland is preserved.

During her four years in Belfast Villiers played a key role in negotiating two political deals - the 2014 Stormont House Agreement and the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement. These accords aided in keeping the power-sharing executive afloat during times of threat.

Reaction on Twitter to her resignation was mixed:

As the incumbent Northern Secretary Brokenshire will be attempting to find a resolution for the impasse which was prevented the establishment of new mechanism for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

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