PARIS: MEPs overwhelmingly backed the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (Ceta) between the European Union and Canada. The vote saw fierce protests with around 700 campaigners taking to the streets outside the parliament building. Some pushed a mock Trojan horse, fearful that the Investment Court System (ICS) brought in with the agreement, ostensibly to provide a legal mechanism to allow companies to take countries to task if they believe they’re being discriminated against, will, allow big business to overrule the laws of the land. “No one will be able to compete with the multinationals. It will be a financial Europe that will favour only big multinationals,” Maika Fernandes, who had travelled from Alicante, southern Spain told one newspaper. Ceta has been eight years in the making, and supporters say it should lead to a 20 per cent increase on the £51billion worth of annual trade between Canada and Europe. Scotland’s MEPs split on the issue with Labour, and the Tories among the 408 who backed the deal, while the SNP’s two voted against with 252 others. The SNP were keen to point out that they were unpersuaded, rather than hostile to the agreement.
On Tuesday, UKIP’s David Coburn had tweeted: “Ceta is poison for both Canada and Europe reject it tomorrow”. However, he didn’t turn up to vote. Reports suggested he was in Stoke working on Paul Nuttall’s by-election campaign. The Canadian European Trade Agreement will scrap 98 per cent of tariffs and barriers on trade between the EU and Canada. This trade, the EU says, could be worth £1.3bn to the UK before Brexit. For the SNP’s two MEPs, Alyn Smith and Ian Hudghton, the problems were with the ICS, but also with the failure of the UK Government to fairly protect Scottish food and fisheries products. They also expressed 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” In a joint statement 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.”