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European Court of Justice provides Free Trade Agreement boost

The UK and EU hopes of a fast FTA aided by court ruling

A shock ruling by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has handed both Britain and the European Union and huge boost in their hopes to quickly conclude a new Free Trade Agreement once the UK leaves the EU.  


Brussels have been handed trade negotiating competence over all goods and services, including all transport services. In other words, a qualified majority will vote on any deal, avoiding the need for approval from the Union's 38 national and local parliaments.  


Steve Peers, professor of EU law at Essex University, said "The Court of justice says all services - even transport - can be ratified by a qualified majority vote, which is potentially quite a big opening for the UK. It could certainly make things easier." 


According to the head of international trade at law firm, Linklaters, Nicola Kar, "This is the most significant ECJ case on EU trade policy for twenty years and has huge ramifications for any UK-EU FTA. In policy terms, now the UK government will want to consider whether it moderates its ambition for the UK-EU FTA to those matters where there is exclusive competence in order to secure agreement through EU Member State governments by qualified majority voting." 


The head of EU and trade policy at the Institute of Directors, Allie Renison, believes the ruling will be "welcomed" as it will assist the EU in concluding a trade deal "without fear of as many hold-ups from national and sub-national legislatures." 


Ms Renison continued, "How this affects Brexit negotiations will depend on whether the final trade agreement includes investment provisions or not, although neither the UK or EU has expressed much interest in this to date. It’s important to remember that any eventual UK-EU trade agreement would not be about opening up each other’s markets in controversial areas, but trying to limit the amount of disruption to trade, and so it is unlikely to encounter the same resistance from other EU countries once concluded by the Commission."

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