During 2020-2022, the UK and the European Commission engaged in informal consultations with stakeholders in Northern Ireland on the implementation of the Protocol. This allowed for key challenges and potential solutions to be identified.
With the value of such engagement being recognized, the European Commission in October 2021 proposed formalizing 'fora for structured dialogue' as well as stakeholder participation in the Specialized Committee. The UK government also acknowledged the need for 'consultation' and 'a stronger role for those in Northern Ireland to whom [EU laws under the Protocol] apply (including the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, and wider Northern Ireland civic society and business)'.
As part of the Windsor Framework in 2023, the European Commission and the UK Government agreed to 'ensure regular engagement with Northern Ireland stakeholders at each level of the Withdrawal Agreement's structures, including with the co-chairs of the Joint Committee'.
Specifically, they agreed - in a Recommendation of the Joint Committee - that relevant meetings of the Specialized Committee's Special Body on Goods and of the Joint Consultative Working Group's sub-groups could include representatives from businesses and civic society stakeholders.
To this end, the European Commission committed in a separate statement to 'enhanced engagement' with Northern Ireland stakeholders. This would involve:
- annual presentation of upcoming policy initiatives and legislative proposals
- specific information sessions on new EU initiatives and additional workshop(s)
- relevant public consultations and/or involvement of Northern Ireland stakeholders in targeted consultations for specific cases
- dedicated overviews of Northern Ireland stakeholders’ input into consultations.
These Windsor Framework Commitments regarding stakeholder engagement can be summarized as follows:
The UK Government has yet to indicate how it envisages ensuring regular engagement with Northern Ireland stakeholders.