17 November 2017
A leaked document from Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier suggests that the EU will seek a trade relationship with the UK that is reminiscent of the recently signed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) the bloc agreed with Canada.
The contents of the memo, which were revealed by Politico, showed the EU currently see a similar model to the free trade agreement with Canada as the only realistic way a relationship with the UK can be formed outside of the Single Market and Customs Union.
CETA has been widely criticised by campaigners and trade unions, particularly for its inclusion of an Investor-State Dispute System (ISDS), which provides a specialist court for investors to sue governments that pass policies multinationals consider to limit their profits. It is through this system that tobacco firm Phillip Morris was able to take the Australian administration to court for imposing plain packaging on cigarettes.
It was unclear whether a CETA-style arrangement sought by the EU with the UK would include an ISDS function.
However, at a recent debate held by the IER, former General Secretary of the European Transport Federation Graham Stevenson explained what the wider impact of a CETA-style deal between the EU and UK would be.
“The aim of CETA is partly to save taxes for EU exporters but also to obtain mutual recognition in regulated professions such as architects, accountants and engineers. But only big business and multinational corporations would seem liable to benefit, while citizens risk more costs, unemployment, and environmental damage,” he said.
“The most controversial area is the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. Canada’s agreement allows tariff-free trade with the Single Market for industrial goods and some agricultural produce but very limited access for services and no requirement to comply with EU regulations. Each side accepts the other’s regulations for market access to some services, customs controls and compliance with the ‘rules of origin’ checks.”
Graham’s speech alongside other senior labour movement representatives and lawyers from Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, Cyrpus, Portugal and France will be released in our new publication Europe, the EU and Britain. The book will go on sale at our forthcoming Post-Brexit employment rights and trade deals conference in Liverpool on 30 November, where leading experts will discuss in detail the future of workers’ rights after the UK leaves the EU.