As Wallonia blocks the EU’s trade deal with Canada, should Britain be concerned about its own prospects in Brexit talks?

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Left wing and environmental protesters have opposed CETA (Source: Getty)

Denis MacShane, the UK’s former minister of Europe, author of Brexit: How Britain Left Europe, and senior adviser at Avisa Partners, Brussels, says Yes.

Europe (including the UK) has 7 per cent of the world’s population, but 30 per cent of its trade and 30 per cent of its foreign direct investment. In 1950, global trade amounted to $66bn. By 2005, this had risen to $20 trillion. The Single Market as conceived by Margaret Thatcher has driven trade and growth forward.

We are entering a post-Davos era in which neo-protectionism against open frontiers – which allow goods, capital, services and people to flow to where they can fructify best – is now fashionable. Brexit was the most important expression of this, as is the vote by a small regional parliament in Belgium against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) with Canada.

This should terrify Brexit negotiators. Any future trade deal between a Britain fully outside the EU and the rest of Europe will need ratification by 36 national and regional parliaments. The UK has said no to Europe. Now anyone in the EU can say non or nein to Britain.

Andrew Lilico, executive director at Europe Economics, says No.

The EU’s incapacity to do a trade deal even with friendly and patient Canada risks leaving it lacking any credibility in trade negotiations internationally. Who is going to spend seven years negotiating only to be turned down by a regional authority?

For the Brexit negotiations, that means three things. First, it illustrates the challenge of agreeing to change. But in the case of Brexit, no change means a deal – to keep things as they are.

Second, it means the EU will be desperate to do a Brexit deal to re-establish its negotiating credibility.

Third, it means the EU will seek to put as much as possible of the post-Brexit trading arrangements in the British exit deal – where it can be agreed by qualified majority voting and won’t need ratification by all parliaments. The collapse of Ceta is also not unhelpful to the UK in showing that non-EU countries doing an early deal with Britain need not fear undermining their EU deals – they won’t get such deals anyway.

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