The Supreme Court has ruled that Ireland can’t ratify the EU–Canada Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) unless changes are made to the legislation governing arbitration.
The Supreme Court, by a majority of 4–3, held that the Constitution of Ireland prevents the Government and the Dáil from ratifying CETA as Irish law now stands.
Responding Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: “The decision of the Supreme Court is noted. While it is disappointing that ratification is not now immediately possible, the Government remains committed to ratifying the CETA agreement in full.
“It will now take some time to reflect on the wider decision and consider its implications. Our initial assessment is that a referendum is not required and that ratification can follow once some changes are made to domestic law.”
Dara Calleary (Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation) said Government will reflect on the decision today reassure Canadian partners that Ireland remains very much an advocate for free, fair and open trade.”
The constitutional challenge to the trade deal was brought by Green Party TD Patrick Costello, who claimed that CETA would adversely affect the State’s ability to make environmental regulations.
By a majority of 6–1, the court also held that certain amendments of the Arbitration Act 2010 would, if effected, permit ratification without breaching the Constitution.
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan ruled that currently CETA tribunal awards are “in substance converted almost automatically into judgments enforceable in this State”, bypassing the High Court function to supervise such awards and ensure they comply with the Constitution and EU law.
“This fundamental constitutional objection would accordingly be cured if the Oireachtas were to amend the 2010 Act so that the High Court were to be expressly invested with this power in respect of the enforcement of decisions of the CETA Tribunal,” he continued.
CETA has provisionally applied since 21 September 2017, giving Irish companies beneficial terms.