The former Conservative party leader William Hague has said the recent violence in Northern Ireland should be the “final warning” to the UK government to improve relations with the EU.

Lord Hague urged both No 10 and Brussels to “create a better atmosphere” and come to an agreement over the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Last week’s rioting has been put down to several factors, but the underlying tension over recent months has been loyalist anger at the post-Brexit trading arrangements enshrined in the protocol.

“We are going to bump along from one crisis to another. And the latest very worrying news from Northern Ireland is really the worst of this,” Lord Hague told Times Radio on Tuesday.

“That really is a final warning to get relations onto a better footing because there are talks going on at the moment, which are apparently making some progress about the Northern Ireland protocol. But it shouldn’t have to come to that crisis point to get those talks to make progress.”

Lord Hague – who voted Remain at the 2016 Brexit referendum – criticised the some Brexiteers who had dismissed the potential for the UK’s exit to create instability Northern Ireland, claiming a serious matter had been treated as an “inconvenient detail”.

The Tory peer said: “It is the big flaw actually in Brexit – which in many other ways can work successfully for this country. Certainly at the time of the referendum it was kind of brushed aside. Some of us were warning about it at the time.”

UK and EU officials have reportedly engaged in a series of talks with the aim of forging a new joint document aimed at a more flexible implementation of protocol arrangements in Northern Ireland.

Brussels officials told RTE News on Monday that technical talks have been progressing “positively” and new political discussions between David Frost and his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic could happen “as early as this week”.

If an agreement over the protocol implementation can be forged it is still expected to take several weeks to finalise, however.

Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis gave nothing away on talks. The minister said the situation in the province had much “been much calmer” since Friday, “with only a few isolated incidents of disorder”.

Mr Lewis told MPs 88 police officers were injured and 18 arrests were made after last week’s violence – with 15 individuals charged.

“It can be easy to look for a simplistic explanation for the recent disorder,” he said. “However, it is clear that the factors behind it are in fact complex and multi-faceted.”

But the minister did acknowledge the link to anger over Brexit arrangements. “I recognised that there are concerns about the implications of the Northern Ireland protocol.”

Labour MP Louise Haigh, shadow NI secretary, said Boris Johnson had “made promises to the people of Northern Ireland that there would be no border with Great Britain knowing full well his Brexit deal would introduce barriers across the Irish Sea”.

She added: “He made those promises knowing economic separation would be unacceptable to the unionist community. The growing instability we are seeing has its roots in the loss of trust this has caused.”

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