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What the Windsor Framework/Protocol will mean in practice for the institutions of government in Northern Ireland

Posted On: 14 Jun 2023

Northern Ireland


This paper considers what the post-Brexit context will mean for the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Executive and its departments of government, the North-South institutions and the British Irish Council.

The relationships, opportunities, risks and obligations will be very different from anything that has gone before. While there are parallels with the operation of the EEA countries, and others with association agreements with the EU, Northern Ireland will be unique in that it is a region of a non-Member State, and not a separate sovereign jurisdiction.

The issues that will arise will be affected not only by the relationship with the EU, but by the place of Northern Ireland within the governance and constitution of the United Kingdom, which will itself also be adapting to new policy opportunities and challenges post-Brexit. Communication and understanding (with NI stakeholders as well as the EU and UK institutions) will be absolutely critical if the opportunities are to be realised, and the potential tensions (which could be very significant) are to be anticipated and navigated to avoid disruption or controversy.

Andrew McCormick joined the Northern Ireland Civil Service in 1980, working in the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) until 1992, before assisting in the political talks from 1992-1993. From 1993 to 1998 he was a Director in the Department of Education, and then Director of the Central Finance Group (DFP) until 2005, when he became Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. In 2014 he took on the position of Permanent Secretary of the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, moving on to hold the same position at the Department for the Economy until 2018. From 2018 to 2021 he was Director General for International Relations in The Executive Office, with responsibility for EU exit issues.


This Briefing Paper was launched at a special Seminar in the Northern Ireland Executive Office in Brussels which you can view here.



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