The European Union could formally adopt aspects of the Windsor Framework by 21 March, RTÉ News understands, with member states also agreeing to change EU law to facilitate elements of the deal by 19 April.

The agreement in principle between the EU and UK on changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol was reached last Monday and it requires both sides to make legislative changes in order for the deal to take effect.

Under the Protocol, the EU-UK Joint Committee, which manages the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, is entitled to amend parts of the original Protocol.

In the coming weeks EU member states are expected to mandate the European Commission to make changes through the Joint Committee that will, for example, enable the light touch customs regime as envisaged by the Windsor Framework.

According to an indicative timetable, EU ambassadors could endorse the changes by 17 March, with European affairs ministers giving their approval at a ministerial meeting in Brussels on 21 March.

The changes will then be reflected in the annexes of the Northern Ireland Protocol, and under EU rules are adopted by member states via a qualified majority vote.

Member state officials have been in the process of assessing the deal in meetings with the European Commission since 3 March and the process will continue until 14 March.

As well as adopting changes through the Joint Committee, the EU will change its own rules to facilitate the reduction in agri-food checks and documentation, as well as the promise to ensure that all medicines produced in the UK can also be marketed and sold in Northern Ireland.

According to the timetable, EU ambassadors could endorse the new legislation by 17 April which would then be adopted by member states and the European Parliament under what is known as co-procedure.

DUP to create panel on Windsor Framework opinions

Meanwhile, the DUP is setting up an eight-member panel to inform its decision on whether to accept the Windsor Framework.

Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson said he hoped to receive its report within a month.

Amongst its members will be former DUP leaders Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster.

Mr Donaldson said it would also include "independent thinkers who have standing within the broader community".

Jeffrey Donaldson said his party had some concerns about the new deal
Jeffrey Donaldson said his party had some concerns about the new deal (file pic)

The majority of those named are elected DUP members or have an association with the party.

The panel will include people with political, legal and business experience.

The DUP leader said its work would run in parallel with the party's consultations with the UK government.

It will consult with a broad cross-section of the unionist and loyalist community.

"The DUP is now engaged in a detailed study of what has been published as well as examining the detail of the legal texts published to date," Mr Donaldson said.

"Clearly further legal text remains to be published to give effect to some of the changes already secured.

"History teaches us that it is always better to get the right outcome for Northern Ireland rather than a rushed one."

Last week, Mr Donaldson said the DUP had asked lawyers who are experts in constitutional law to examine the deal.

He said what needed to be ensured is that any continuation of EU law for the purpose of cross border trade "does not inhibit our ability to trade within the United Kingdom and its internal market".

This, he said, is "absolutely key" for the DUP.

Additional reporting PA