Agreements on TTIP, Tisa and a post-Brexit quickie in jeopardy
BREXIT and free trade deals could be in jeopardy after a European Court of Justice decision yesterday.
The Luxembourg-based court ruled that a trade agreement struck with Singapore in 2013 must be ratified by all 28 member states — some of which require parliamentary approval — and not just a majority.
In its ruling, the court stated: “The free trade agreement with Singapore cannot, in its current form, be concluded by the European Union alone.”
A key sticking point was the deal’s investor-state dispute settlement clauses — a common feature of such agreements that allow foreign firms to sue governments over regulations that impede profit-making.
“The provisions of the agreement relating to non-direct foreign investment and those relating to dispute settlement between investors and states do not fall within the exclusive competence of the European Union,” the court said.
“The agreement cannot, as it stands, be concluded without the participation of the member states.”
The precedent set could spell trouble for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), already looking shaky since the election of protectionist US President Donald Trump last year, and the Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa).
Trade unions, doctors, consumer and green groups across Europe and the US have campaigned fiercely against TTIP, which has been negotiated in secret.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation took advantage of a hiatus in Tisa talks to launch a new campaign against the deal last week.
Last year the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) between the EU and Canada was almost scuppered by resistance from federal Belgium’s Wallonia regional parliament.
The precedent could also complicate Brexit talks if one nation’s MPs choose to reject a deal giving Britain access to the common market.
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Tom Brake said: “Theresa May and Nigel Farage’s claims of an easy trade deal with the EU after Brexit have been left in tatters,” repeating his party’s calls for a the referendum result to be overturned.
Tory MEP Amjad Bashir said the Singapore ruling showed Britain was “right” to leave the EU.
“With so many hoops to jump through, Brussels may never strike a trade deal again,” he said. “By contrast, it will become ever more attractive for third-party nations such as Singapore, Canada, Pakistan or the US to strike a trade deal instead with a newly independent, outward-looking and flexible Britain.”