A SENIOR EU official has warned the Tories’ plans to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol will lead to legal action from the bloc and intensify Britain’s economic misery.

In a stark warning David McAllister, chair of the EU’s foreign affairs committee, told The National that ditching the protocol – which allows for frictionless trade on the island of Ireland but is hated by Northern Irish Unionists – would crush the EU’s “trust” in the UK and could end up in court.

Speaking after a meeting MSPs, including the SNP’s party treasurer Colin Beattie, hosted by the British Chambers of Commerce and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Edinburgh, McAllister said: “As regards the challenges the UK is facing at the moment with inflation, energy prices and the difficult budget situation that under all circumstances, you should avoid further burdens, further difficulties, further challenges.

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“This Northern Ireland Protocol Bill would, if it adopted by the UK Parliament, disapply core elements of the protocol and this would then mean real and significant consequences, including for the Trade and Co-operation Agreement.

“The EU would then need to carefully consider our options and this would mean also legal actions against the UK and we want to avoid this under all circumstances.

“We are not interested in making trade with the United Kingdom more complicated than it already is.

“That’s why I would always call on the UK Government, fully respecting their autonomy in decision-making; let’s find pragmatic and flexible solutions within the jointly agreed negotiation framework and that is the protocol.”

He said the protocol was too central to the terms on which Britain left the EU to be abandoned.

McAllister added: “And just to be very clear; the protocol is an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement.

“Without a fixed solution to guarantee frictionless trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic, I’m not sure that the Withdrawal Agreement would have been concluded because this is a core element of negotiations.

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“The EU was following three key principles: First, the protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU; the second was to defend and protect the integrity of our single market; and the third one was to avoid under all circumstances a hard border on the island of Ireland.

“This is affecting one of the three fundamental principles that led and guided the EU since the negotiations started in 2017.

“The protocol part of the solution of a problem. The problem has one name: Brexit.”

McAllister, the son of a Glaswegian who worked as a British civil servant in West Berlin, suggested the UK should aim to fix the problems with the protocol by the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement as a symbolic gesture.

And the Christian Democratic Union MEP added that despite indications of a “new attitude” from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak towards the EU, the UK was still failing to meet the terms of its Withdrawal Agreement with the bloc – warning this risked the country’s “credibility.  

He added that there was no appetite whatsoever in Brussels for a “Swiss-style” deal with the UK – describing that arrangement as being the source of “challenges nearly on a daily basis”.