Former prime minister Tony Blair has described the Northern Ireland Protocol as a “bad deal” and said it risks “undermining the Good Friday Agreement”.
Writing in a report by his Institute, Blair urges both the EU and UK to show “maximum flexibility” to find a compromise that would make it easier for goods heading from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
The report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change proposes creating a new class of “Northern Ireland approved” goods, which would be labelled as only for sale in the province, to eliminate the vast majority of east-west customs controls.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who opposes the Protocol, welcomed the intervention and suggested the EU should “take note” of the former Labour leader, the Belfast Telegraph reports.
The Telegraph reports that Blair has called for face-to-face talks between prime minister Boris Johnson and president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to achieve a deal in negotiations that have stalled.
Blair also warned that bad relations over the protocol could fracture the Western Alliance against Russian leader Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.
His intervention will heap pressure on the EU to drop its refusal to renegotiate the protocol and will carry weight in the US as Blair worked with former US president Bill Clinton to secure the Belfast accord.
Donaldson also told The Telegraph: “The protocol threatens our place in the United Kingdom, endangers jobs for our people, drives up costs for consumers and reduces choice on our shelves. We’re making progress but we need to keep moving.”
Sinn Fein in Brussels
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill has tweeted she is leading a delegation to Brussels to meet with the Vice President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic “to discuss the recent Assembly elections, and issues relating to the Irish protocol”.
The Blair paper also suggests a system of independent arbitration panels to defuse a stand-off over the role of the European Court of Justice in adjudicating Brexit conflicts.
Former Brexit minister Lord Frost is to face MPs on the public administration and constitutional affairs committee on 7 June about his experience negotiating the various deals with the EU.