Sir Tony Blair has quietly been quietly helping the Government in a Brexit row with the EU. The former Prime Minister, who campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum, has been drafted in by ministers to explain Britain’s position on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He has been lobbying Brussels and the US behind the scenes to drop their stubborn refusal to listen to the UK’s concerns over customs checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea.
A source The Telegraph: “Tony has certainly been explaining to the Europeans and the Americans that the British Government has a real point on the trading aspects of the Northern Ireland protocol.
“And he’s been explaining in a way that only he can, given his role in the Good Friday Agreement.
“He has been explaining why there’s no danger, why it’s not about the Good Friday Agreement. It’s about communities.
“And he’s been explaining why the EU’s proposals will not work.
“He doesn’t agree with the Government on every point, but he certainly has been a helpful voice in that.”
Sir Tony is said to have been providing “assistance” alongside ex-Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
UK officials believe the former leaders’ roles in signing the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 means their interventions will hold greater sway in the White House and with the European Commission.
Mr Blair’s help was welcomed by Trade minister Conor Burns earlier this month in the House of Commons.
He told MPs: “I want to place on record, Mr Speaker, in the House today, my thanks to the former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the former Prime Minister Tony Blair for their assistance in the work that I have done over the summer.”
London and Brussels have been locked in months of negotiations over Ulster’s post-Brexit trading arrangements, which impose checks on goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Washington has also waded in on the debate, with Joe Biden’s administration wanting the UK to maintain its agreement.
Ms Truss has warned the UK will be left with no choice but to take unilateral action to remove the most damaging aspects of the Protocol if a compromise agreement cannot be reached.
Yesterday Prime Minister Liz Truss met with the US President on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly to hold talks on the customs dispute.
After months of threatening to refuse to sign trade deal with the UK if it continued to threaten to suspend parts of the deal, Mr Biden appeared more willing to hear Britain’s argument.
“We are both committed to protecting the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, I am looking forward to hearing what’s on your mind and how we can continue to cooperate,” he said to Ms Truss at the start of the talks.
A senior White House official told reporters that Mr Biden and Ms Truss had a candid discussion about the Good Friday Agreement and that the US President made clear maintaining the peace pact is important to the American people and to him personally.
The official said Truss had sounded a “constructive tone” about her discussions with the European Union and Ireland “and now we have to see where things go.”