Brexit: Tony Blair claims to have 'practical steps' to solve Northern Ireland impasse

Former prime minister Tony Blair gives a speech at the Institute for Government.
Former prime minister Tony Blair gives a speech at the Institute for Government.

Mr Blair is criticising the approach taken by the Government in dealing with the impasse with the EU over Northern Ireland

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The former Prime Minister and architect of the Good Friday Agreement said "there are ways through" the current impasse. The pro-EU politician said his institute is planning to unveil a series of measures that would help ease Brexit tensions.

Lord Frost is currently in intense negotiations with European Commission vice president Marcos Sefcovic on the implementation of the Protocol.

Britain says a heavy-handed approach to customs checks from Brussels has had a negative impact on the UK's internal market.

Ministers also say the European Court of Justice's role in overseeing the implementation of the mechanism is unacceptable.

Mr Blair criticised the approach taken by Boris Johnson and the Government, saying: "They signed it and now they want out of it."

Speaking to Bloomberg, he added: "Now, I think there are ways through it.

"My institute will publish a paper in the next couple of days, setting out a series of practical steps that we believe could resolve this issue."

The ex-PM's institute has released numerous papers in recent years aimed at shifting Government policy.

UK Brexit negotiator Lord Frost.
UK Brexit negotiator Lord Frost.

It was one of the first to call for the Government to shift its Covid jab strategy last winter to give the first dose to as many people as possible by delaying second doses.

Lord Frost has warned the UK is ready to trigger Article 16 of the Protocol to suspend aspects of the international treaty unless a solution is found.

He says the frictions caused by the Protocol mean that the legal threshold to take such action has already been met.

The Brexit minister has hinted he could take action in just weeks.

Earlier this week Mr Johnson said: "Let me say – given all the speculation – that we would rather find a negotiated solution to the problems created by the Northern Ireland Protocol, and that still seems possible.

"But if we do invoke Article 16 - which by the way is a perfectly legitimate part of that Protocol – we will do so reasonably and appropriately.

"Because, we believe it is the only way left to protect the territorial integrity of our country, and meet our obligations to the people of Northern Ireland under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement."

Speaking in the Commons yesterday he added: "There is no question that the use of Article 16, which has already been done by the EU Commission to stop vaccines from being exported into this country, it is something that is perfectly legal within the powers of the protocol."

Mr Blair said he did not want to see Brexit lead to the breakdown of the Good Friday Agreement.

He said no border on the island of Ireland was essential to long lasting peace.

Warning the Government against triggering Article 16, he urged ministers to be "careful" in its handling of the row.

He said: "It’s always been a principle of the Good Friday Agreement my government negotiated that you keep that border open and it’s very important for peace that you do.

"It’s a big problem and the UK Government has got to be very, very careful on how it handles it."

Lord Frost has spent the past two days in Belfast meeting political leaders and representatives from the business community to hear their views on the situation.