I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 117 together.
The Government remains firmly of the view that ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement is the best way to ensure an orderly UK withdrawal from the EU, and hopes that the extra time provided by the extension will allow for ratification of the Agreement. The completion of all ratification process and entry into force of the Withdrawal Agreement will see a new phase in the Brexit process. Negotiations will move on to establish the future relationship between the EU and the UK as outlined in the Political Declaration on the future relationship, and work on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement itself will commence, including the establishment of the Committees referred to by the Deputy. Article 164 of the Withdrawal Agreement provides for the establishment of a Joint Committee, comprising representatives of the EU and the UK, and co-chaired by the EU and the UK. Article 165 of the Agreement establishes six specialised committees, including one on issues related to the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland. The Joint Committee may delegate responsibilities to, establish or change the tasks assigned to specialised committees. Article 14 of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland sets the mandate of the specialised committee to facilitate the implementation and application of the Protocol, while Article 15 establishes a joint consultative working group to serve as a forum for exchange and mutual consultation. Annex VIII of the Withdrawal Agreement sets out the Rules of Procedure of the Joint Committee and the specialised committees. In accordance with Article 166 of the Withdrawal Agreement, decisions adopted by the Joint Committee shall be binding on the EU and the UK and have the same legal effect as the Withdrawal Agreement.
Arrangements for meetings of the Joint Committee will be finalised once the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified by both the EU and the UK.
The Withdrawal Agreement provides that the Joint Committee will meet at least once per year. Specialised committees, including the one relating to the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland could be expected to meet more regularly following establishment. The joint consultative working group on the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland shall meet at least once a month, unless otherwise agreed by the EU and UK. The Joint Committee will supervise and facilitate the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and the revised Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland also identifies a number of detailed issues for decision by the Joint Committee during the transition period. Ireland and the EU will take the same consistent approach to the implementation of the specific arrangements set out in the Protocol, as taken throughout the Brexit process. Ireland’s priorities will remain: protecting the Good Friday Agreement including avoiding a hard border, protecting North South cooperation and the all island economy, and protecting the integrity of the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union and Ireland’s place in them. The Agreement reached between the EU and the UK clearly achieves all of these objectives and these same objectives will guide its implementation.