The European Parliament vote on CETA – the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada – will be early next year. At the end of November, it decided not to postpone that vote for two years by referring the whole agreement to the European Court of Justice. The Court is anyway due to examine the question of the legality of the proposed Investor Court, a part of the agreement which will not be applied pending that examination, even if the agreement as a whole is approved by the Parliament.
Parliament will therefore vote in January or February 2017 on CETA as a whole. Having had no fewer than 25 parliamentary debates during the ups and downs of the negotiations over the past 9 years, a final decision is now around the corner.
It should be noted, however, that national parliaments must also ratify CETA, so we can expect a vote in Westminster too. The importance of this part of the process was highlighted in October when Wallonia – one of Belgium’s regions with the power to co-determine Belgium’s position – voted to oppose CETA. Last minute concessions were made and Wallonia acquiesced.
The situation in the UK is of course different in the aftermath of the vote to leave the EU on the 23 June. Indeed, there’s a real danger now that the UK government may adopt a more ardently free market approach to future British trade deals, without any safeguards at all for consumers, workers or the environment.