Divisions in Government over CETA

18 November 2022

There are divisions brewing between the coalition parties over how to act on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), following the Supreme Court’s ruling late last week that the trade deal with Canada could not be ratified by the Oireachtas unless the current legislation is amended.

In the judgement, the court ruled – by a majority of four to three – that the Constitution of Ireland precludes the trade deal from being ratified under the current legislation. However, the court also ruled that the deal would no longer be unconstitutional if parts of the 2010 Arbitration Act were amended. 

The Greens have stated that they want to “pause” and “reflect” on the ruling, however, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told his Cabinet colleagues that it was the Government’s intention to press ahead with ratification. 

Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said that the Government was committed to ratifying the treaty and noted that the initial assessment was that a referendum was not required. The Government would press ahead with amending the Arbitration Act and then ratify the treaty, he said.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan declined to say that the Green Party supported the plan to amend the Arbitration Act and then hold a Dáil vote to ratify the treaty. Green TDs Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello have reiterated their opposition to ratifying the treaty without a referendum. 

Richard Boyd Barrett, Solidarity-People Before Profit, also criticised the Government’s support of CETA, warning that the deal would allow speculators to sue governments who try to protect renters and home-owners.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that Mr Boyd Barrett’s remarks were “disingenuous” and called his “conflation” of two issues the mark of a “polemicist”. He rejected the suggestion that countries could be sued, and he told the deputy not to “scare-monger” over “hypothetical” and “theoretical” scenarios.