Northern Ireland news

Tony Blair claims protocol risks 'undermining the Good Friday Agreement'

Former British prime minister Tony Blair. Picture by Owen Billcliffe/Institute of Global Health Innovation /PA Wire

TONY Blair has labelled the Northern Ireland Protocol a “bad deal” and claimed that it risks “undermining the Good Friday Agreement”.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson welcomed the former Labour leader's remarks, which were included in the foreword to a new report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. The DUP leader said the European Union should "take note".

The report by the institute's senior fellow Anton Spisak says there is a “landing zone” for an agreement between Britain and Brussels based on a special “Northern Ireland approved” designation for goods destined solely for the region.

Mr Blair, who as British prime minister helped oversee the 1998 Good Friday Agreement negotiations, said a deal on the post-Brexit trade arrangements was “in the interests of broader European harmony and trade”, against the background of conflict in Ukraine.

He calls on “significant movement from the EU” on its current position and argues that negotiations and agreement should be led “at the highest political level” as a result of the “state of distrust” between the EU and UK.

“There is no escaping the following: the Northern Ireland Protocol, described at the time by Boris Johnson as an “excellent deal” that resolved all the issues around Northern Ireland, was a bad deal and didn’t resolve those issues,” Mr Blair says.

“If left unresolved, the issues at the heart of the protocol have the capability of causing an enlarged trade conflict between the UK and the EU, or undermining the Good Friday Agreement – and quite possibly both.

“That said, in the interests of broader European harmony and trade – especially at a time when Europe, including the UK, has come together impressively over Ukraine – both the EU and the UK should show maximum flexibility in order to reach an agreement."

The former British premier said the paper has "set out a practical way through" and a "compromise" on the involvement of the European Court of Justice.

He claims the blueprint would give "greater opportunities for consultation on draft EU laws affecting Northern Ireland to representatives from all sides of the community".

“It is, at least, a possible landing zone for resolution of the dispute," Mr Blair says.

"It could be done within the framework of the protocol, but would require significant movement from the EU on its stated position around the protocol’s interpretation."

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