Eurocrats conceded they “can’t interfere” and attempt to railroad through CETA, which still faces an uncertain future despite being approved by MEPs following a fractious vote in the Strasbourg parliament yesterday.
Europe’s elite reacted with relief yesterday as they squeezed through the pact despite intense opposition from politicians across the continent who fear it will hand big US corporations too much power.
The EU-Canada trade agreement still faces an uncertain future
And today Canadian PM Justin Trudeau travelled to France for a mutual love-in at the European Parliament, where he praised the EU as a “truly remarkable achievement”.
But their collective bubble was immediately burst by Wallonia’s firebrand leader, Paul Magnette, who vowed to block its complete implementation unless the rest of Europe meets his demands.
There were protests against CETA outside the EU parliament yesterday
EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said it is up to member states to ratify the deal
CETA is due to be provisionally implemented within days, in a move that will remove many tariffs on goods travelling between Europe and Canada but will not bring into force some of its more contentious aspects.
In particular the controversial Investor State Dispute System (ISDS), an international court which critics have described as tyrannical, will not come into being unless the accord is fully ratified.
Politicians on both the left and right have argued that the secretive arbitration system, which allows corporations to sue governments over laws which harm their economic interests, will severely erode democracy.
Wallonia is fiercely opposed to ISDS, a confrontational Mr Magnette tweeted after yesterday’s vote: “Small reminder: Wallonia will not ratify CETA unless all of our conditions are met.”
A failure to fully ratify the deal – something which requires the consent of all 28 national parliaments and numerous regional assemblies – would be another devastating blow to Brussels’ reputation.
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We can’t intervene in a national prerogative or process
EU Commission spokesman
It would also leave CETA in a form of legal limbo, with a patchwork of tariff and quota agreements in place but no effective way of policing their imposition.
Asked today if Jean-Claude Juncker’s Commission will push national parliaments to adopt the deal quickly, its chief spokesman Margaritis Chinas admitted eurocrats’ hands are largely tied.
He told a briefing in Brussels: “The vote in parliament closed the European dimension of the ratification of the treaty.
“Now, of course, it’s provisionally applied and in the meantime it has to be nationally ratified.
“There, it is within the rules of each national constitution for that nation to handle its procedures.
“The Commission is always there ready to help but it’s not our job. We can’t intervene in a national prerogative or process, that’s all we can do.”
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Yesterday crowds of protestors gathered outside the EU parliament building in Strasbourg to protest against CETA as MEPs in the voting chamber tore into the proposed deal.
The accord is being hailed as a blueprint for a future UK-EU trade pact by some MEPs, although concerns have been raised over the impact it could have on the NHS.
Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman said: “CETA is a textbook example of what Britain's future trade relationship with the EU can look like.
"Canada does not have single market or customs union membership and does not have a freedom of movement agreement with the EU or pay any access fees, but they have still achieved this.
"I believe Britain as the EU's largest customer can secure an even more superior deal to Canada – a 'Super Canada' deal."