Iain Duncan Smith has criticised the EU as “determined to meddle” and “not prepared to be flexible” as bloc officials claim a Brexit deal is increasingly unlikely.
EU leaders have this week expressed their lack of optimism for securing a withdrawal agreement, with the Irish border a continual sticking point.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it would be “very difficult” to achieve a deal by next week, while German chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly said Britain could not leave the EU unless it was prepared to leave Northern Ireland behind in a permanent customs union.
But Mr Duncan Smith claimed that Northern Ireland “was always a pawn in this game” because the EU is “petrified”.
He told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer: “The EU is absolutely petrified that if the UK leaves, makes a success of this being outside the customs union, all of a sudden, the glue that binds the European Union starts to come away.”
The former Conservative Party leader added that he was “absolutely convinced” that Northern Ireland “has been used as a lever to try and get the rest of the UK also in the customs union on the belief that the UK will not leave Northern Ireland stranded”.
However, he said “cutting Northern Ireland loose” would be an “absolute travesty”.
Mr Duncan Smith’s accusations of “playing games” come just a day after European Council president Donald Tusk criticised Boris Johnson for engaging in a “stupid blame game”.
Mr Tusk warned the Prime Minister in a tweet that “the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people” was at stake.