Theresa Villiers has rallied around the Prime Minister over the Northern Ireland Protocol and slammed the legacy of Theresa May on Brexit. Ms Villiers told GB News’s Darren McCaffrey that Mr Johnson ”started at a disadvantage” due to the deal struck with Brussels by the former Prime Minister. The Conservative MP added that she believed Mr Johnson would never have wanted to sign up to the Protocol, given the choice.
The former Northern Ireland Secretary was asked: “Do you think it was a mistake during the referendum campaign and indeed, actually, afterwards in the negotiations that, frankly the UK Government, and indeed the European Union did not listen to Unionists enough?
“Unionist concerns about what might well happen in any future deal?”
Ms Villiers replied: “I believe certainly that under the Theresa May government they didn’t listen sufficiently to Unionist concerns.
“I think under Boris, I think he recognised from the start that the Northern Ireland Protocol was a very difficult compromise.
“Yeah, I feel pretty confident it wasn’t something that he actually wanted to sign up to.
“But that was the best deal he could get given that he started at a disadvantage because of the agreement signed by his predecessor.
“But certainly, I think that we must remedy the defects within the Protocol to respond to the concerns of many in Northern Ireland but especially the Unionist community.”
It comes after a former Irish diplomat alleged to Express.co.uk that the Irish government is “very worried” about the UK’s threats to trigger Article 16.
Ray Bassett has argued that to do so would leave Dublin in a “very, very bad position”.
He added that within Irish political circles there is concern that Ireland overplayed its hand during the Brexit negotiations.
Former Irish leader and now deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar opted for a strong pro-EU position during talks.
Mr Bassett told Express.co.uk: “On the overall picture Ireland is very worried and I saw the Taoiseach last night was very worried that the UK was going to invoke Article 16.
“Which would place us in a very, very bad position.
“There’s also a feeling quietly in Dublin that you know, we brought some of this ourselves.
“Particularly by Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney’s early period where we adopted a very hostile attitude to the UK.
“Which wasn’t in Ireland’s interest at any stage but was very much seen as playing the European card.”