Sunday 23 October 2016 3:09 pm

Belgium told to sort out Wallonia rift over EU-Canada trade deal by Monday

The European Union has given Belgium until Monday evening to sort out its dispute over whether to approve the EU-Canada trade deal or risk another disappointing setback for EU trade policy.

The new deadline comes after talks between the Belgian government and representatives from the region of Wallonia broke down on Friday, raising fears the entire Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) could be in the balance.

Talks between representatives have been taking place over the past week following the vote against the deal in the Wallonian parliament earlier last week. The Monday deadline has been put in place because that is the latest Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can make a decision over whether he will fly to Europe for a high-profile signing ceremony which had been planned for Thursday.

Read more: Is Canada-plus the way to go for the UK?

European leaders, including Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk have dismissed the disagreements lodged by Wallonia as an internal political problem, suggesting it is up to the Belgian government, not the EU, to address their concerns.

Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU's trade commissioner said on Sunday: "The commission has been working 24/7 to find a solution. We now hope that Belgium will bring this matter to a successful close."

The failure to secure a deal in the stated timeline has raised concerns over the EU's ability to negotiate an exit deal for the UK in the two-year timeline afforded by European rules. It has also cast doubt over whether the EU-US trade deal – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will ever get off the ground.

Although the planned visit of Trudeau on Thursday was supposed to mark the conclusion of the deal, the Institute of Directors' Allie Renison has said part of the failure stems from the EU "setting artificial deadlines and timetables" which heap undue pressure on sides to get deals done.

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