TENSIONS have been raised across Northern Ireland as Brexit and subsequent trade deals come into force.

Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA and First Minister Arlene Foster launched a petition on Change.org which has gathered more than 130,000 signatures.

The petition calls for unfettered trade access between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

At the 100,000-signature mark, the petition was submitted for debate in Westminster.

Speaking of the decision behind launching the petition, the First Minister said: “The ptition was one part of the plan unveiled by the party in response to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“The petition's role was about more than just the formal procedures of Parliament.

"The government must now formally respond to the petition and it may be selected for debate when they resume. It has also helped to increase the public profile of the Protocol and its impact on Northern Ireland.

"It has helped give a voice to people to register their objection to the Protocol.”

Mrs. Foster has already seen the "negative consequences" of the Northern Ireland protocol.

She said: “Businesses and consumers face difficulties in ordering goods from Great Britain. There have been restrictions placed on the movement of pets and, most ridiculously, British soil has been banned from Northern Ireland.

“We are now nearly halfway through the three-month grace period which has lessened the most severe impact on the movement of chilled meat products, for example.

"Unfortunately, some of those who championed the Protocol have continually sought to downplay those problems, which are set to worsen unless solutions are found.”

In recent weeks, posters have been erected across Northern Ireland – including one in Enniskillen town centre – which suggest unease at the current Brexit situation.

When asked if she was concerned about tensions from paramilitarism, Mrs. Foster said: “We all must be concerned about the possibility of tension or violence in Northern Ireland.

"For all our problems, we have made huge progress over recent years, and there is a need for cool heads and calm voices.

“For my part, I am determined that constitutional politics must be seen to work. Unfortunately, in the past, we did have the threat of violence alluded to within the [wider Brexit] debate.

"The former Taoiseach even used photographs of IRA bombings to emphasise what might apparently happen should there be any kind of Border infrastructure between Northern Ireland and the Republic."

When asked, Mrs Foster did not rule out further protests in Fermanagh if article 16 is not trigged.

She said: “I want to see people register their opposition to the Protocol and its impact upon our economy. That must always be peaceful and lawful, and the most important signal which can be sent is that constitutional politics works.

"The challenge lies with the government to demonstrate this.”