Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has praised the Brexit deal negotiated by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as the “most practical way forward” for Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Blair said that the deal represented the best possible outcome after years of tensions surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The new framework, known as the Windsor Framework, was unveiled by Sunak and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last month to replace the protocol, which unionists have criticised for creating trade barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The DUP even collapsed the Stormont power-sharing institutions in protest at the protocol.
Blair acknowledged the difficult task of reconciling the different elements of Brexit and its impact on Northern Ireland. He said that the protocol and the Windsor agreement were an attempt to square that circle.
The former Prime Minister was asked by DUP MP Jim Shannon about the Good Friday Agreement’s relationship to the Windsor Framework. Blair said that unionism had to be involved in the process as cross-community working together was the essence of the agreement.
Shannon expressed his concern that the Windsor Framework might become a Windsor knot. In response, Blair stated that the new agreement sought to improve on areas of the Northern Ireland Protocol that the DUP had objected to, particularly in relation to checks on goods.
The former Prime Minister admitted that the agreement did not remove checks but would ensure that they were “practically insignificant” in most circumstances. Blair said that the “realism” was that there was no perfect answer to the problem.