Slow lane for EU-Canada trade deal could hit Brexit negotiations

Jake Cordell
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The EU-Canada trade deal will now be voted on by national parliaments across the EU
The EU-Canada trade deal will now be voted on by national parliaments across the EU (Source: Getty)

The EU’s landmark free trade deal with Canada could be years away from coming into force, after it was agreed national parliaments across the continent will have to approve the treaty.

Earlier this week the EU’s trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said she had ceded to political pressure and decided all 28 members will have to take the deal back to their home legislatures to ratify the deal which took seven years to negotiate.

Raoul Ruparel, co-director at Open Europe, said the full ratification process alone for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) “could take a number of years”. However, with the EU facing an existential crisis and fears of a domino effect triggering referendums across the continent it didn’t have many other options. “Forcing this through might have backfired,” he said.

Brexit Britain: What you need to know

National governments and pressure groups will now get a chance to air their grievances at the deal and potentially strike it down if there is enough disquiet.

Tiziana Beghin, an Italian MEP, told City A.M. she expects resistance from Bulgaria and Romania over visa rules in the treaty, while Greece could also push back against the designation of protected produce. She also wants trade deals more broadly to come under review now the UK has voted to leave the EU, to make sure they still reflect the interests of the remaining 27 members.

Read more: What now? The UK and the EU Single Market

The decision also casts doubt on the idea the UK could secure its own trade deal from the EU and all the necessary sign-offs within the two-year negotiating window.

Ruparel said it was always suspected a UK exit deal would be subject to potentially lengthy process of approval by the remaining 27 national parliaments, but this decision “crystallises” that idea.

Syed Kamall, leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament who also sits on its committee for international trade, said he was hopeful the CETA deal would be signed off as soon as possible, with a hassle-free ratification process potentially laying the groundwork for the EU-US deal to be agreed in good time.

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