Brexit trade deal will likely need approval from all EU member states

The ECJ has ruled that an EU-Singapore trade deal needs approval of all member states making it more likely that any post-Brexit deal will do too.

In a court case that could have consequences for an EU-UK trade deal, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that an EU-Singapore free trade deal (FTA) will need the approval of all the bloc’s national parliaments. The case was brought to the ECJ for clarification on whether the trade deal could be finalised by the European Commission without the approval of member states. As we explained in a previous article, the case centred on whether issues covered by the FTA fell within the European Commission’s “exclusive” competence.

Post-Brexit trade deal may need ratification by EU’s national & regional parliaments

The opinion given earlier by the ECJ’s advocate-general Eleanor Sharpston was that the FTA could not be concluded without the participation of all member states. Sharpston said this is because “not all parts of the agreement fall within the EU’s exclusive competence”. The judgement today from the ECJ supports this view.

… the free trade agreement with Singapore can, as it stands, be concluded only by the EU and the Member States acting together.

Court of Justice of the European Union, Press release re EU-Singapore free trade deal

As Euractiv reports, the Luxembourg court did, however, find that “a large part of the agreement does fall under exclusive EU competence”. In contrast to the advocate-general’s opinion, the ECJ ruled that areas including sustainable development and transport services are EU exclusive. The areas in the Singapore deal that the ECJ ruled are a shared competence between the European Commission and member states include non-direct foreign investment and the regime governing dispute settlement between investors and states.

For future trade deals including one with the UK, the judgement is a clarification of what issues fall under the EU’s exclusive competence and what issues are a shared competence with member states. Any EU-UK deal is likely to be more expansive than the Singapore one so it’s fairly certain that if we get that far, any deal will need the approval of every one of the EU’s national parliaments. In any case, the clarification on which issues fall under whose competence should be welcomed. If the UK wants a quick deal that wouldn’t require the approval of all member states, it will have a better idea of what limitations that trade deal will have.

You can see the press release on the ruling at

Image: © Peter Fuchs /
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