Former Prime Minister Sir John Major 'doubts there is perfect solution' to Northern Ireland Protocol

Former Prime Minister John Major, seen here shaking hands with then-Taoiseach John Bruton, led the UK government through the early stages of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major has told an Irish government committee that resolving the Northern Ireland Protocol is not "beyond hope" but he "doubts there is a perfect solution".

Sir John Major has been giving evidence remotely to an Oireachtas committee on the 'Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement'. 

He was Prime Minister from 1990-1997 and negotiated the Downing Street Declaration which is widely viewed as the building block for the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Sir John told Irish politicians and Northern Ireland MPs who are invited to such committees that he believed a degree of "flexibility on both sides" was needed to fix the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He repeated his view the Protocol arrangements were "perhaps one of the least well done negotiations in modern history."

Sir John Major has become the third senior statesman to give his opinion on the Northern Ireland Protocol in recent days. 

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern gave evidence to a Westminster committee on Monday saying solving the Protocol was not "rocket science" and called for compromise on all sides.

While former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair told journalist Eamonn Mallie in a programme for UTV to solve the problems with the Protocol people needed to be "flexible and without ideology".

In his remote evidence session this afternoon, Sir John Major reflected extensively on his time as Prime Minister and on the talks which resulted in the Downing Street Declaration in 1993 and the IRA ceasefire in 1994. 

He described the former taoiseach Albert Reynolds as a "genuine friend" whom he misses.

He said solving the Northern Ireland question and stopping violence during his time in office was like "a Rubix cube with a gun attached."

Sir John was challenged by the Sinn Féin MP John Finucane to explain if he was ever briefed about cases of collusion between intelligence agencies and loyalist paramilitaries.

The former prime minister replied: "I was certainly never briefed on that... I wasn't briefed then and nor have I been briefed in the papers I have seen subsequently."

He continued: "Emphatically was not the policy that I was aware of either as foreign secretary or later as prime minister that there was any such collusion. That's not something I was aware of."

Sir John Major was asked by the committee for his views on the government's current legacy legislation, but he did refused to be drawn saying he was no longer in parliament and not across the detail of the plans.

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