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Queen’s academics publish recommendations for Northern Ireland post-Brexit

Experts from Queen’s have produced 80 recommendations as to what measures can be taken in order to ensure that Northern Ireland’s interests can be protected and heard in the new post-Brexit landscape.

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These range from the levels of government closest to people (e.g. local authorities) all the way through to the highest levels (e.g. the UK-EU Joint Committee), with a web of agencies, networks and channels in between.

The recommendations are from a final report, Anticipating and Meeting New Multilevel Governance Challenges in Northern Ireland, co-authored by Dr Katy Hayward, Professor David Phinnemore and Dr Milena Komarova from Queen’s University Belfast and published today (19 May 2020) by The UK in a Changing Europe.

“The recommendations are for generally modest initiatives and developments,” said Dr Katy Hayward, from the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen's and lead researcher on the project, “but each one is a small step towards improving the means by which Northern Ireland can be better governed, even though its capacity to determine the policies that affect it has been undeniably diminished. Upholding democratic legitimacy in principle and in practice is particularly important for a region with a still-fragile peace process.”

The report presents results from an 18-month long project in which the democratic implications of the Protocol on Northern Ireland/Ireland contained in the Withdrawal Agreement have been considered at every level of government: within Northern Ireland, within the UK, north-south on the island of Ireland, British-Irish, and now UK-EU.

Professor David Phinnemore, from the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen's, explained the context for this research: “Even after the end of the transition period, as the UK government chooses to diverge and ‘go its own way’, Northern Ireland will have to continue to align with rules of the EU’s single market and customs union. This raises a wide range of challenges for Northern Ireland that need to be – and can be – addressed with appropriate sensitivity and flexibility from both the UK and the EU.”

The research behind the report includes lessons from other regions and small states that are outside the EU but which employ a range of techniques to get their voice heard in Brussels. Project work also involved a survey and several workgroups in Northern Ireland involving over a hundred stakeholders from a range of sectors most directly impacted by Brexit, including agri-food, transport, retail and human rights. The report points to the newly-honed capacity in Northern Ireland for stakeholder engagement as something that should be built upon and formalised as a means of helping address the post-Brexit democratic deficit.

Professor Anand, Director of The UK in a Changing Europe, welcomed the release of the report. “There is growing awareness that the Northern Ireland Protocol is more important than its 15 pages would suggest. This report, and the research behind it, shows that its consequences are not just economic. Concerns about the capacity to shape UK post-Brexit policy are, as we know, not confined to Northern Ireland. There are many lessons that can be drawn from this report for all the devolved regions and nations of the UK.”

The full report, the executive summary and the authors’ recommendations are available from The UK in a Changing Europe website: https://ukandeu.ac.uk/research-papers/

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