The Belgian government has finally struck a deal with regional representatives from Wallonia to push forward with the landmark EU-Canada trade deal this morning.
After a week of talks and multiple failures to negotiate a settlement, the news puts the EU back on course to formally sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) with Canada and enter the final stretch of a deal which has been seven years in the making.
The Walloon parliament voted down the agreement earlier this month, citing concerns over labour laws and protections for its farmers. Failure on behalf of the EU or the Belgian government to address their concerns caused a high-profile signing summit between with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which had been scheduled for today, to be cancelled.
The country was branded the "laughing stock of the whole world" by one of its own top politicians earlier this week after the three parties failed to meet the EU-imposed Monday deadline.
Today's breakthrough, therefore, will be welcome news to the other 27 members of the EU who have all given their approval for the deal to go ahead.
Nevertheless, it was too late for today's signing ceremony to go ahead, with an EU official declaring this morning: "Today's summit is cancelled. For now, no new date is set", according to AFP.
Finally white smoke on #CETA. Belgian agreement reached. Hope a date can be set soon for the EU and Canada to sign the deal.— Cecilia Malmström (@MalmstromEU) October 27, 2016
Once Ceta is signed by both the EU and Canada, the treaty and its provisions, which abolish 98 per cent of all tariffs between the two sides and also strip back regulatory barriers, can enter provisional force. It will then need to be ratified according to the procedures of all 28 member states, a process which could see further tension given the rise of anti-globalisation parties across the continent and tense elections in both France and Germany scheduled for next year.