IRELAND's deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said the Conservative Government faces the risk of "breaking up" the UK over its actions to over-ride part of the Brexit deal.

He accused ministers in London of being “disrespectful” and “undemocratic”, siding with Ulster unionists over the broader interests of the people of Northern Ireland.

The Tánaiste, who was speaking to BBC Northern Ireland’s The View programme last night, attacked Boris Johnson over his government's legislation to rip up parts of the protocol which sees Northern Ireland have greater alignment with EU standards than the rest of the UK.

Mr Johnson and the DUP, which is also opposed to the mechanism, were dealt a blow earlier this week after a poll found 55 per cent of voters in Northern Ireland support the protocol with 65 per cent saying it brought economic opportunities.

Mr Varadkar suggested that by planning to override the protocol Downing Street has elevated the concerns of unionists above the broader concerns of the people of Northern Ireland.

“It’s a government that has not been even-handed,” he said. “In the past, commitments were given by UK governments that it would be even-handed in its approach to Northern Ireland, and I don’t think that’s the case when it comes to this government.

“I think that’s a strategic mistake for people who want to maintain the union because if you continue to impose things on Northern Ireland that a clear majority of people don’t want, that means more people will turn away from the union.

“It’s a peculiar policy coming from a government that purports to want to defend the union.”

He accused the British government of acting undemocratically and being "very disrespectful" to people in Northern Ireland.

“That’s what I find shocking and hard to accept. The British government wants to impose solutions on Northern Ireland that most people in Northern Ireland don’t want. We’ve had this happen twice now," he said.

“If you make a treaty and you’re an honourable country or an honourable government, you have to honour it, and you have to abide by international law. The approach they are taking is wrong.

“It is not normal for a democratic government in a respected country to sign a treaty and then try to pass domestic legislation to override it.”

Mr Varadkar also described statements from two members of the UK cabinet as manifestly untrue.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss said this week: “What we have seen from the EU so far are solutions that are worse than the current standstill — that would actually mean more bureaucracy.”

When the statement was put to him, Mr Varadkar said: “Well, there are some people clearly who are able to say a square is a circle. That’s just not the facts. That is just totally at variance with the facts quite frankly. In my view, that’s absolutely wrong.

“I’d ask that question in reverse. What flexibility has the British government shown? What I see from the UK government is ‘we signed an agreement. We don’t like it any more. Give us everything we want or we’re going to revoke it and break the law’.”

Asked about a statement from Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis who described relations with Dublin as “great”, Mr Varadkar repeated: “Well, I think once again a square is being called a circle there. In my political lifetime, I’ve never seen relations this bad.

“We have a British government that doesn’t want to work hand in glove with the Irish Government, that is not even-handed in its dealings with the communities in Northern Ireland, and a government that wants to continue to have rows with the EU even though they’ve left.”

On what needs to be done to resolve the diplomatic crisis, Mr Varadkar said that trust “needs to be restored”.

“Even if you have difficulty trusting somebody, you still have to try to come to an agreement,” he said. “We will do the best we can to come to an agreement with this government. If we can’t with this government, then a future government.”

Last month the EU announced it was raising a legal challenge and resuming a previously paused legal case against the UK Government for failing to implement the protocol and by taking the decision to unilaterally suspend parts of it.

MPs backed the second reading of the Northern Ireland protocol bill in a vote in the Commons on Monday night despite the prospect of trade tariffs being imposed on the UK by the EU following court action. 

The long negotiated protocol was agreed by Mr Johnson and the European Commission as a way of preventing customs checks and border infrastructure between the province and the Irish Republic in keeping with the Good Friday Agreement which brought about the end of the Troubles.

During the debate on Monday, Theresa May launched an excoriating attack on her successor saying that “as a patriot” she could not support his legislation to scrap large parts of the protocol unilaterally.

She said it was illegal under international law, will not achieve its aims and will reduce Britain’s standing in the world. The former PM abstained in the vote.

Labour's David Lammy said three years ago Mr Johnson told MPs he had secured a good deal which protected the Good Friday Agreement and that "the Government are taking a wrecking ball to their own agreement."