AG’s Opinion concerning EU Singapore agreement gives pointer on process for a post-Brexit trade deal

21 Dec 2016

Advocate General Sharpston has today delivered a substantial Opinion in proceedings under Article 218(11) TFEU concerning the EU Singapore Free Trade Agreement, concerning the allocation of competences of the EU and Member States in entering into trade agreements it has obvious significance for the UK’s forthcoming discussions.  The short summary is that the Advocate General concludes that the trade agreement can only be concluded by the EU and the Member States acting jointly.

She identifies a number of aspects of the agreement that fall within the EU’s exclusive competence but identifies various matters that fall into an area of shared competence.  These include matters of real significance such as transport, including government procurement relating to transport and services linked to transport; intellectual property; certain labour and environmental matters; and issues concerning disputes and transparency.  She also concludes that the EU has no competence to be bound by that part of the agreement which purports to terminate existing bilateral agreements between Singapore and individual Member States.  She expressly acknowledges that this outcome would render the process of ratification both cumbersome and complex and may have adverse effects on the relations between the EU and the state it is trying to reach agreement with.  She notes also that if the agreement goes forward for approval by Member States they are left with the choice of accepting or rejecting the whole agreement but that if a Member State were to reject the agreement on grounds relating to matters on which the EU enjoys exclusive competence that Member State would be acting in breach of its Treaty obligations.

The full text of the Opinion can be found here.