Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed todays European Court of Justice decision relating to the competencies of the Commission in ratifying Free Trade Agreements. The court judgement will have implications for an EU-UK post Brexit trade agreement and certainly reinforces the position that a referendum will be required in Ireland before the government can sign up to the final agreement on the controversial EU-Canada CETA trade deal.
Speaking from Strasbourg Matt Carthy said:
“This judgement, which took the EU-Singapore FTA as a test case, states that these new agreements can only be concluded by the EU and Member States acting together. Crucially it states that the regime governing dispute settlement between investors and States cannot be established without the Member States consent. This reinforces the legal opinion I have received that outlines that a constitutional referendum will be required on the recently concluded EU-Canada trade agreement (CETA) due to the inclusion of the anti-democratic Investment Court proposal.
“One of the reasons Sinn Féin campaigned against the Lisbon treaty was due to the included expansion of the scope of the EU’s competence over external trade policy to include not only trade in goods, but also trade in services, intellectual property and foreign direct investment. We correctly predicted that the commission would use these increased powers to pursue a regressive, dangerous trade agenda. In fact, this judgement proves that they gone even further than their competencies allowed.
“The judgement categorically proves that the Commission is not competent to conclude free trade deals like TTIP and CETA on its own. It must act jointly with national parliaments and governments, giving them a much increased role in the process.
“This could prove significant for Brexit negotiations going forward. Talks of a future EU-UK Free Trade Agreement will now be subject to approval by all EU Member States. Parts of the Agreement that previously would have been agreed solely by the European Commission, will now have to be approved by national parliaments including the Dáil.
“This will give an increased scope for participation by the Irish Government and will hopefully ensure a more robust defence of Irish interests particularly in relation to the position of the north.
“The clear delineation of competences will mean a smaller mandate for the Commission on topics negotiated in secret. If the commission adheres to the findings of this judgement it would mean topics such as dispute settlement being taken out and put in separate agreements. Should TTIP (EU-US trade deal) negotiations restart, as the Commission and corporate lobbyists are heavily pushing for, this should radically change the way negotiations are conducted.
“As an immediate step the Irish Government must now immediately review its position on a referendum on the Canadian-EU Trade Agreement and specifically the inclusion of an Investment Court that would allow corporations sue governments for enacting progressive legislation, if it impacts on profits. All the evidence suggests that a referendum is required. The government shouldn’t have to be brought to court themselves in order for that referendum to be held.”