BORIS Johnson has dismissed concerns about changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol as “not a big deal” as his government was accused of “deliberately” heightening tensions.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is publishing a new bill which seeks to override parts of the UK’s agreement with the EU signed in the aftermath of Brexit.

The protocol has been criticised by Northern Irish Unionists for effectively creating a border with the rest of the UK, to spare the creation of a hard border on the island itself.

READ MORE: Scotland and Ireland fans filmed singing 'f*** the Jubilee' in Dublin

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney has accused the UK of attempting to “ratchet up” tensions as officials in Brussels are reportedly considering launching a trade war in response.

Following a call with the Foreign Secretary, Coveney tweeted: “UK Govt now proposing to set aside Int Law, reject a partnership approach, ignore majority in NI & deliberately ratchet up tension with an EU seeking compromise.

Boris Johnson claims Northern Ireland Protocol changes 'not a big deal'

“We remain open to dialogue to find agreement but his approach adds to instability & is no fix.”

But the Prime Minister dismissed concerns about the consequences of overriding aspects of the Protocol as a “relatively trivial set of adjustments”.

Speaking on LBC Radio, he said: “What we have to respect – this is the crucial thing – is the balance and the symmetry of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

“We have to understand there are two traditions in Northern Ireland, broadly two ways of looking at the border issues. One community at the moment feels very, very estranged from the way things are operating and very alienated.

“We have just got to fix that. It is relatively simple to do it, it’s a bureaucratic change that needs to be made.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson faces backbench rebellion over Northern Ireland Protocol plan

“Frankly, it’s a relatively trivial set of adjustments in the grand scheme of things.”

Speaking on a visit to a farm in Cornwall later on Monday morning, the Prime Minister said: “First of all, the protocol isn’t actually even yet being implemented. And it’s because it’s all been put into cold storage while we try and manage it, were it to be implemented, it would do even more damage diverting trade and that is upsetting the balance of the Belfast Good Friday agreement.

“We’ve got a problem at the moment, which is in Northern Ireland, the Stormont assembly, the government of Northern Ireland, can’t meet because of the effects of the protocol. What it does is it creates unnecessary barriers on trade east-west.

“What we can do is fix that. It’s not a big deal, we can fix it in such a way as to remove those bureaucratic barriers but without putting up barriers on trade moving north-south in the island of Ireland as well.”

He insisted the “higher and prior international obligation” of the UK Government is to the Good Friday Agreement.

Boris Johnson claims Northern Ireland Protocol changes 'not a big deal'

Coveney (above) told Truss the publication of the new Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, expected Monday afternoon, marked a “low point in the UK’s approach to Brexit”.

A spokesman for the Irish minister said: “Mr Coveney said publishing legislation that would breach the UK’s commitments under international law, the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol is deeply damaging to relationships on these islands and between the UK and EU.

“Mr Coveney said it marks a particular low point in the UK’s approach to Brexit, especially as Ms Truss has not engaged with negotiations with the EU in any meaningful way since February.

“Mr Coveney repeated that the protocol is the negotiated solution, ratified by Westminster, to the hard Brexit pursued by the UK Government.

“The UK’s unilateral approach is not in the best interest of Northern Ireland and does not have the consent or support of the majority of people or business in Northern Ireland.

“Far from fixing problems, this legislation will create a whole new set of uncertainties and damage relationships.”

A majority of MLAs (members of the Northern Ireland Assembly) have signed a letter to Johnson outlining their opposition to the proposed legislation and said the current Protocol “represents the only available protections for Northern Ireland from the worst impacts of that hard Brexit”.