Boris Johnson has said the Northern Ireland Protocol will be a case of “fixing it or ditching it” as he spoke about problems with the post-Brexit border system.
The prime minister said the protocol, which sees checks on goods between the country and the rest of the UK, “could in principle work”.
But he refused to rule out triggering Article 16, which would enable the UK to take action due to negative consequences caused by the system.
Speaking in an interview with BBC News Northern Ireland on Friday, Mr Johnson said: “The fundamental problem for us is that it is very difficult to operate in an environment where the EU system can decide when and how many checks can be carried out across the Irish Sea.”
He said: “Goods are being pointlessly interrupted, and it is crazy to have cancer drugs which you can’t move from one part of the UK to another.”
But the BBC also reported that Mr Johnson said: “The protocol could in principle work.”
The prime minister added: “It has got enough leeway in the language for it to be applied in a common sense way without creating too many checks down the Irish Sea.”
He was also quoted as saying it will be a case of “fixing it or ditching” the protocol.
Asked if he planned to trigger Article 16 during the Conservative Party’s conference next week, Mr Johnson replied: “That depends on the response from the EU”.
He told the broadcaster he signed up to the protocol because he has an “optimistic view of human nature and thought they (EU) would want to respect the Belfast Good Friday Agreement”.
He added the protocol was framed to operate “free trade east to west just as much as north to south and that was very, very clear but unfortunately that is not the way it is being operated”.