SNP Deliver "Not Proven" Verdict on CETA

In favour of a deal,
just not this one.

The SNP Members of the European Parliament Ian Hudghton MEP and Alyn Smith MEP have today (Wednesday) voted against giving consent to the EU-Canada Trade Agreement, known as CETA.  The Agreement was nevertheless approved by a majority of the Parliament, by 408 votes to 254 with 33 abstentions.

Within any complex trade deal there are things to like, things less so, so the decision to withhold consent was taken after considerable thought on the relative merits of the deal and only after the final form of the package emerged from the complex negotiations.  On balance, the SNP duo could not give the process nor the content of the Agreement a clean bill of health.  This was on a number of counts, but primarily over concerns that:

  • The Investor Court System, while admittedly improved, will still undermine the general corporate law by developing a specific jurisprudence and supranational court for investors rather than other actors;
  • That labour law standards have not been adequately safeguarded and an envisaged consultation process remains opaque in its eventual effect.  The Employment Committee of the Parliament, in its scrutiny of the deal, similarly did not approve it;
  • That continuing concerns over the right of the Scottish parliament to decide on future regulatory standards, especially on environmental and food safety, had not been adequately addressed by the UK in the CETA text;
  • That the opening of government procurement, while welcome, did not adequately safeguard the right of the Scottish parliament to decide on future public services, given the operation of the present and future devolved settlement;
  • That the European protection of Scottish food and fisheries products were insufficiently represented due to the failure of the UK government to put them forward into the texts and the impact of the deal on Scotland's vital farming and fishing sectors has not been properly assessed;
  • That there remain significant shortcomings in the way the European Commission has handled the conduct of the negotiations given the very wide ranging nature of the text, and has not paid proper respect to the European Parliament as the deal was being negotiated;
  • That the claims of the economic advantages of CETA were at best unproven, and in many cases entirely unconvincing.

Speaking after the vote, the MEPs said:

"It goes without saying that Canada and Scotland have a close relationship, so our decision today has been finely balanced and in many ways we regret that we are in this position.  We certainly want to see a deal, and regret that we just cannot approve this text.

"While we could not give consent to this deal, we had hoped that the parties would be able to reconsider and renegotiate the more troubling aspects of the package, they have already shown that it can be improved.  Given that a majority of the Parliament has seen fit to approve it, we will remain vigilant as it is implemented over the coming months and years.

"There has been a blizzard of half truths and misunderstandings, on all sides, about this deal, so it was right that we took account of all interests and acted in accordance with long standing SNP policy, putting Scotland's interests first."