The DUP leader Edwin Poots has accused the European Union of treating Northern Ireland as a political “plaything”.
Mr Poots claimed the EU was damaging the NI peace process.
Speaking on the Marr programme on BBC One, Mr Poots said the current EU commissioners did not seem to care about the peace process.
He said he shared the fear of his predecessor Arlene Foster that anger over the NI protocol could lead to violence on the streets this summer
He said: “I don’t want to use a threat of violence in terms of this.
“Our arguments are very clear, they are very coherent.
This is the European Union seeking to punish the UK and, as a consequence, Northern Ireland is being used as a plaything.
“I can assure you, Northern Ireland should be nobody’s plaything.”
He urged the UK government to consider invoking Article 16 of the Protocol, which allows either side to suspend any part of the agreement that causes “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.
On the same programme, the European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, firmly rejected any suggestion that the EU no longer cared about the peace process.
He expressed “total commitment to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement”.
He said the Protocol brought economic opportunity for Northern Ireland and added that he was working “flat out” to ensure that the Protocol worked “smoothly”.
‘Take the barriers away’
Mr Sefcovic suggested a temporary Swiss-style vet deal as a solution for Northern Ireland, where the UK continues to follow all EU agrifood rules.
He said such a deal could be done in weeks and would remove 80% of GB-NI checks.
Mr Poots also rejected this proposal saying: “That struck me as a temporary solution. I want permanent solutions to take the barriers away and provide security in terms of the single market.”
He suggested providing checks between GB and the EU in Northern Ireland “that doesn’t have to be at the border, it can be at another location in NI including the ports”.
Mr Sefcovic said he wants to meet the Northern Ireland Executive parties soon.
“I would like to hear from Mr Poots himself but also from other leaders of the political parties who form the Northern Ireland Executive, and discuss with them what we can do better,” he said