So it would seem given the shambles over the Canada-EU trade agreement, now held up, even potentially torpedoed, by objections in the Wallonian regional parliament in Belgium.

If the Walloons really destroy the Canada-EU trade deal, it would, at first glance, confirm all the darkest views of British Eurosceptics about Europe’s incapacity to make trade deals, about the awful fate of being “shackled to a corpse”.

The Canada-EU trade agreement was supposed to be a model for the hoped for bigger prize of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States.

I must confess a personal role in this. As co-chair of a body called the Canada-Europe Business Roundtable, I brokered a meeting in 2008 with the then European Commissioner for trade, Lord Mandelson, that kicked off the whole process.

So just as my friend and former colleague Chrystia Freeland, once Kiev correspondent for The Economist, then deputy editor of the Financial Times, and now Canada’s international trade minister, was reportedly tearful about the Walloon blockage, I feel like shedding tears myself.

I hope that this can still be sorted out. But while that does, or doesn’t, take place, let us go beyond the first glance and see what this really signifies.

What the Wallonian blockage tells us is that the pressure to “take back control” is disastrous. Either EU countries share sovereignty, or they don’t. Giving a regional parliament a veto over an EU trade deal is tantamount to the European Union packing its bags and going home. Or, to put it more brutally, committing suicide.

The whole point of the European Union is to be stronger together than we would be separately, and to do so by transferring some powers to a central body, the European Commission. We can debate which those powers should be. But once they have been transferred – as with trade, or competition law, or state aids – the power needs to stay with the Commission, come what may.

Should we give a regional assembly or council in Hamburg, Barcelona, Rome or Manchester a right of veto over the European Commission’s competition enquiry into Google, say, or its assault on Apple over its tax arrangements in Ireland?

To do so would be to abandon co-operation and all the strengths that have come with the European project.

That is what is represented by the Wallonian attempt to veto the Canada-EU trade agreement. It is the most powerful and disturbing symptom yet of the disintegration of the European Union. It is the most potent proof of how national governments’ demands to act separately, to seize back decision-making power from the Commission, is destructive.

it is a tendency that Britain has encouraged, even motivated. But given that the eventual UK-EU trade deal will have to be ratified by all 27 EU countries, Britain should be careful what it wishes for.

If Britain celebrates Wallonia’s blockage of the Canada deal, it should look forward to its own deal being blocked by a regional parliament in Slovenia, say, or in Hungary, or perhaps in Belgium too.

The point of the EU is to make the whole more than the sum of its parts. That cannot work if each of the parts, even the sub-parts, holds a veto.

European governments need to decide whether they want the EU to work, or would rather kill it.

Bill Emmott

Chair, The Wake Up Foundation

October 22nd 2016


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  • commented 2016-11-13 14:27:44 +0000
    First & foremost, I am just an ordinary woman struggling through the fear that we are, once more spiraling towards disaster, & trying to make sense of it all, & how I, considering myself to the left, have contributed to it all. I agree with everything stated by Michael Wulf in his response to your article Mr. Emmott; with respect, as an article it is one-sided; it lacks a look at the possible nuanced meanings behind such trade deals, & their effect on the working & lower middle class citizens of Europe; just look at the effect a neoliberal globalisation drive has already had on both Europe & America (some good some bad); if we do not address the negative aspects of this agenda, we will continue to experience the likes of Brexit & Trump; they are a response to our refusal to be truthful, reflective & be open to debating the destructive aspects of those forces that are playing out to the detriment of a certain, large, cohort of people & their communities without any interaction with those people except to try & shut them up with accusations of racsim, ignorance, nationalism, isolationism etc. Those, in power, with a liberal, left of centre approach to governance seem to have sold out on those who are now suffering because of the polices influenced by capitalism, denying them their basic rights, as well as the right to voice concern & anger at what is really happening to them, while nobody really hears them; democracy & its right to vote is the only avenue open to them to communicate their fear & anger/frustration in voting for people they might not normally vote for. It is this complete disrespect of the neoliberal globalisation agenda for those people & communities they are destroying that has created what is now happening; all they have to do is stop ridiculing those who have the temerity to speak up & criticise the worst aspects of this forceful, demoralising (for some) agenda. People are not rebelling against globalisation or the potentially unifying aspects of it; they are absolutely frustrated by the lack of attention to its worst, destructive aspects; its refusal , by those driving it, to both affirm, apologise & reevaluate their policies in light of being made aware of the unintended consequences of their ideas; or is that just it? in a nutshell: the consequences have been a deliberate part of their governance aspirations; divide & conquer, in other words, with a deliberate plan to silence those who try to speak up, often ineloquently, as racist, ignorant, bigoted, & incapable of understanding what is good for them. Either way, if we are indeed rushing towards a post Brexit, Trump, Marie Le Pen ruled world, it is because we of the left allowed ourselves to be hijacked by globalisation forces out to serve themselves & their profits, & forget about the human being & their social, emotional & psychological needs; & all in the guise of the ‘rising tides will lift all boats’ , which is good, but not when it is used by the influential elites to hide behind as they create policies & systems that destroy & set people against each other (deliberately?) to line their own pockets & those of their cronies; these people have no loyalty to the ordinary individual, the ordinary community, to the nation state, nor to the poor refugees, or victims of war; they are vultures feeding off the carcasses of those they are bulldozing over. It could all be so different if these elite had visionary policies for both ordinary people, communities, the economy & their profits; if we felt that someone was at the wheel of this drive overseeing ‘unintended consequences’ as they began to occur, practicing real democracy through observing, listening, hearing, debating, tolerance, adapting as necessary, as it all plays out, for the greater good. Currently it is just inhumane, despotic, intolerant of those who question & treating ordinary people/communities as dispensable in the self serving drive of ruling/controlling the world without real accountability. Both democracy & left/centre politics needs to be open to reevaluation & reformulation, & for that to happen, we need to be honest about how we have been hijacked by forces with no real interest or belief in either. If that honesty is not forthcoming, we can only conclude that all negative consequences have been deliberate by both the financial elite & the politicians they have in their pockets. Ulrich Beck had good ideas around democracy & the kind of Europe that people thrive in from both an economic, social, psychological & emotional perspective. I love what you are trying to do here, but could we just broaden the debate to include the deeper truths of how we have come to here. Let’s start taking back some of the power we gave away to the oligarchs, or, even, the oligarchs that we have created through our blind ignorance as we thought that money was the answer to everything. Like I said at the start, I am just an ordinary person trying to be open to all aspects of the truth, the good & bad aspects of what is happening, how it happened, & to try to disengage from the negative ‘them & us’ rhetoric that is just toxic, & in service to a divide & conquer mentality/force that does not have the good of humanity at its core; thank you for providing the forum. By the way, I live in Ireland (enjoyed your interview at Agenda at Kilkenomics) , where we court the multinationals to provide our jobs; no real investment in education or entrepreneurs; no attempts at some form of self sufficiency, or driving our country towards being a world leader in green energy, organic farming/tourism etc. If the multinationals leave, to head back to the US, we are well & truly up the proverbial…& once more attempting to pimp ourselves to the lowest bidder for the worst deals; the former colonised constantly looking for another coloniser.
  • commented 2016-10-24 17:59:04 +0100
    Dear Bill Emmott and all who read here the arcticles,

    i’m writung from Hamburg/Germany. I’m german so please forgive gramma mistakes etc., i hope my commentary makes sense though (is understandable).

    I’m wholly for the background idea of this site and find the film “The great …” important. Very relevant theme-complexes these days. For example, the New Right aka segregation etc. is unfortunately on its way. I’m in agreement with the core idea of the website “wakeupeurope”, thus i registered myself and might follow its actions from time to time besides my requiring real life.

    Well, i hope controverse opinions are allowed: I find your analysis above one-sided and perhaps even short-sighted.

    In my opinion CETA is not something that can be green-lit easily by democratic thinking people. It has potential to reduce democratic rights of the EU-citizens, also after all its overworks/ammendments. It is not “for nothing” that CETA has been investigated and judged by the German Constitution Court, and the resulting view has been critical. It seemed to be a small TTIP, and for example would allow partially TTIP through the backdoor.
    I’m not sure, how democratic thinking people support seemingly pretty uncritically CETA, when the treaty-work wasn’t ever opened to the public (same as with TTIP). Both these treaties have concrete influence on the life and society in europe.

    I would wish here for a more active and controverse discussion in such points as trade treaties.

    Cheers and many Greetings
    Michael
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