The EU’s ambassador to the UK has accused new DUP leader Edwin Poots of making comments about the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol that lack “adherence to reality”.

Joao Vale de Almeida was asked about Mr Poots saying that the agreement was “demonstrable harm to every individual in Northern Ireland” and is having a “devastating impact”.

The ambassador told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “First of all I don’t think those statements have adherence to reality. The EU is politically, financially and emotionally, I would say, committed to peace and prosperity for everybody in Northern Ireland.

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“The protocol is not the problem, Brexit created the problem in Northern Ireland.

“The protocol is a joint endeavour of the UK and the European Union, it is British law, European law, international law. There is no alternative to the protocol.

“Even those that criticise the protocol do not present an alternative which is compatible with the terms of Brexit so the protocol is the solution, we need to implement it and we want to implement it with pragmatism.”

Over the weekend, DUP leader Edwin Poots claimed the region is being used as a “plaything” by Europe, with more checks on goods from Britain at ports per week than take place in Rotterdam once grace periods end.

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Mr Poots claimed the UK Government has the grounds to trigger Article 16 to put the brakes on the Protocol due to “economic and societal damage” adding: “We have violence on our streets in Northern Ireland, which hasn’t been the case for years, and that’s on the back of this Protocol."

He added: “This is the European Union seeking to punish the United Kingdom. As a consequence, Northern Ireland is being used as a plaything for the European Union"