The purpose of this Briefing Paper is to consider the extent to which the mechanisms established by the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland as part of the Withdrawal Agreement that formalised the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union are open to engagement by civic society. More specifically, the objective is to assess how civic society organisations involved in North-South cooperation are able to inform those responsible for the implementation of the Protocol as to whether it is hampering their ability to collaborate cross-border.
Some of the measures that are recommended by this paper in order to establish a meaningful and transparent structure for engagement between civil society and those responsible for the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and for the overall Withdrawal Agreement are:
- The identification of contact points for civic society organisations within the UK-EU Joint Committee and the Specialised Committee on the Protocol.
- Establishment of outline schedule of meetings between representatives of civil society and the UK-EU Joint Committee and Specialised Committee on the Protocol.
- Consideration should be given as to the potential benefits of timetabling meetings with the Joint Consultative Working Group.
- Agendas for meetings between representatives of civil society and the Joint and Specialised Committees (and Joint Consultative Working Group, if such meetings are considered appropriate) should be agreed and made public in advance.
- A record of the principal issues discussed should be made publicly available after each meeting.
It is imperative that civic society organisations involved in North-South cooperation are represented in any process for engagement between civic society and those responsible for the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and its Protocol.