BRITAIN may have to wait for every single one of its European Union neighbours to give full legislative consent before it can fully benefit from any post-Brexit free trade deal, EU judges ruled on Tuesday.
In a verdict that may also delay and potentially obstruct a string of other EU trade pacts, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said an agreement struck with Singapore in 2014 cannot take full effect until ratified by 33 national and regional parliaments across the 28-nation bloc.
The European Commission, which runs trade policy for the EU, had hoped Brussels might be free to implement deals without having to consult assemblies, such as that of Wallonia in Belgium that nearly wrecked an accord with Canada last year.
The EU’s last major trade deal to enter force, with South Korea, took five years to be ratified.
The Commission sought the ruling and said it clarified divisions between EU and national powers.
London wants a trade agreement to keep much of its current access to Europe’s single market once it quits the EU in March 2019. But Brussels negotiators have warned such deals can take a decade or more from start to finish.
Any trade pact with Britain would need to be signed off in Brussels by all 27 EU governments after Brexit, but the ECJ ruling implies that, depending on the deal, national parliaments would also get a veto. So would federal Belgium’s five regional assemblies, among them Wallonia and German-speaking East Belgium (population 77,000).