BORIS Johnson’s government ­prefers to be in conflict with the EU so it can be used as a scapegoat for the problems of Brexit, according to a former Irish Prime Minister.

John Bruton also said he believes there are some within the Tory party who want to see the European Union “destroyed”. The former Taoiseach and ex-EU Ambassador to Washington, who helped transform Ireland’s economy into the “Celtic Tiger”, was ­speaking at a virtual event held by the ­European Movement in Scotland.

On Wednesday last week, the EU tabled a range of proposals aimed at cutting red tape which has resulted from the Northern Ireland Protocol.

However the plan did not address a key EU demand – removing the oversight of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the operation of the protocol.

And UK Brexit minister Lord David Frost (below) said there is a “big gap” remaining between the two sides ahead of talks with his European counterpart.

The National: David Frost was made a full member of the Cabinet by Boris Johnson

Bruton said the problems of ­Brexit are already being felt in the UK, ­although he pointed out some may be due to Covid and global supply issues.

But he went on: “To the extent to which these problems are attributable to Brexit, I think the UK Government prefers to be in conflict with the EU, because then it can blame the EU for the problems.

“Whereas … when it reaches a new settlement and there are still ­problems arising from Brexit, which there will be, because the EU statement of the last few days only addresses the Northern Ireland aspect of it.

“It doesn’t address the issues which affect the UK, which will be slow-burning issues … which are necessary for normal commerce to proceed and consumer needs to be met.

“I think there is a big incentive for the Conservative Party to maintain conflict with the European Union.

“The European Union is a convenient ‘bouc emissaire’ as they say in French, a sort of scapegoat for problems that are happening anyway.”

Bruton said if the EU did concede on the issue of the ECJ, it could ­present a “real internal problem” in maintaining itself.

He added: “I’m not certain people in Downing Street don’t realise this, I think there are many people in the Conservative party who are not ­satisfied just with Brexit, they would like to destroy the European Union.

“I am not saying they are a majority within the Conservative Party, they are probably not, but they have this visceral appeal to many people. And I worry about this.”

Last week former chief ­Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings (below) claimed that it was always the ­intention of the UK Government to ditch the protocol.

The National: File photo dated 25/5/2020 of Dominic Cummings who claims that Boris Johnson's Downing Street is now a branch of the "entertainment industry", with a lack of serious focus on important issues. The Prime Minister's former chief aide used

Frost has rejected the suggestion that the UK is acting in bad faith, ­saying: “We knew that some ­elements of the protocol would possibly be ­difficult to make work in practice, and some aspects of it were left open for the discussions in 2020 and ­afterwards.”

Bruton said the Irish public was “puzzled and frustrated” with the way in which the UK Government was dealing with the issue.

He also warned Brexit was ­happening in the overall political ­context of a world where peace has become “much more fragile” that it was 10 years ago.

He added: “Treaties don’t mean what they used to mean. We are ­seeing in the attempted ­abrogation of the treaties, the escalation of ­demands, and when a demand is met, it is replaced by a new demand.

“We are seeing behaviours that are not too dissimilar to the ­behaviours we saw in 1938 in the lead-up the ­Munich crisis. And I think that is something we should be very, very careful about.

“The UK wants to be in a security co-operation with its neighbours. But if it is not in a position to abide by agreements it has made, the underlying trust required for any form of security co-operation is absent.

“So I am very worried about this.”