David Martin MEP

Labour Member of the European Parliament and one of the six MEPs representing Scotland in Brussels and Strasbourg

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The European Parliament today gave the green light to the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), paving the way for its provisional application.

David Martin, Labour MEP for Scotland and member of the international trade committee, said:

“CETA is a progressive agreement for Europe and for the UK. Together with our Canadian allies we are standing firm against growing global protectionism, championing open trade in a time when others are losing faith.

Behind the scenes, MEPs have been fighting the corner of EU citizens to secure unprecedented changes to the final text, safeguarding our high standards, public services, workers’ rights and global environmental protection. CETA is not the perfect deal, but we can look back and be very proud of what we have achieved in this process.

This is a watershed moment - EU trade policy will never be the same again.”

On the implications for the potential UK-EU trade deal, Mr Martin added:

“CETA has given us just a small flavour of what to expect when Trade Minister Liam Fox and his raw recruits approach the EU’s battle-hardened trade negotiators for a post-Brexit deal. The process has been long, and a number of concerns - some genuine and some clearly not - have repeatedly stalled progress.

Mr Fox will soon realise that modern trade agreements are not easy to conclude, as they are more about setting global rules than just reducing tariffs. Parliaments are taking back control of trade policy and will not settle for bad, de-regulating deals that have nothing to say on workers and the environment.”

CETA: a good deal for Europe, lessons for the UK-EU deal

The European Parliament today gave the green light to the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), paving the way for its provisional application.

We are entering a new era for global trade. Faced with unfettered globalisation on the one hand and Trump-style protectionism on the other, modern trade agreements like CETA can help set progressive global rules.

Canada is an important trading partner of the European Union, and within the EU Canada's highest volume of trade is with the UK.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a fantastic deal in terms of the access European firms will get to Canadian markets. CETA will eliminate virtually all tariffs, and for the first time Canada has opened up its government contracts at the province and city levels. Both will create more opportunities for British businesses to export even more goods and services to Canada.

This deal will also mean a reduction in time-consuming paperwork for our exporters. Scotch Whisky, for example, which already accounts for 20% of UK exports to Canada and supports 40,000 jobs across the UK, will benefit from fewer local legal restrictions and the removal of other non-tariff barriers. The Scotch Whisky Association has therefore called CETA “an important deal for UK distillers”. As a growing market for quality Scottish products, I hope increased trade with Canada can help protect and create jobs in Scotland, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises.

CETA also foresees a sustainable development chapter, which commits both partners to increasing environmental protections, reaffirming obligations to labour rights and establishing a platform for NGOs, trade unions and civil society to monitor the application of the agreement. The inclusion of an ambitious and meaningful trade and sustainable development chapter has been a key demand of the Socialist and Democrat (S&D) Group in the European Parliament, where Labour MEPs sit. We have also extracted cast-iron commitments from the European Commission that they will continue to improve the enforceability of this chapter, so that infringements could be sanctioned.

We have also managed to secure a fundamental reform to how investment protection will work in the future. Following our clear rejection of the old-style Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement (ISDS), the European Commission was forced to go back and change the text of the agreement in an unprecedented move. The new proposal provides open and transparent proceedings in a permanent tribunal with well-qualified public judges, who must adhere to a strict code of conduct and be vetted by the European Parliament. The ultimate objective is to create a multilateral court for settling disputes and work is already underway with other partners.

Aside from these novelties, in the course of the past few months we have also obtained strong guarantees on issues where there had been some doubt and concerns had rightly been raised by citizens. The Canadian government and the EU Council, which represents EU governments, recognised our concerns and have produced what is called a ‘joint interpretive instrument’ to go alongside the text of the agreement itself. This legally binding document clarifies the most crucial aspects of the agreement. You can read the whole text of the instrument here.

Amongst other things, it guarantees:

  • that public services are protected from privatisation and nothing would stop a government in the future re-nationalising a public service previously brought into the commercial sector (eg. parts of the NHS);
  • that labour rights are protected and there should be no relaxing of labour laws in order to encourage trade and investment;
  • governments’ ‘right to regulate’ in the public interest;
  • that no foreign investor will be treated more favourably than a domestic investor;
  • that our health, security and environmental protection standards and regulations will be preserved and that any regulatory cooperation will be voluntary and not compulsory.

In many ways the centre-left group in the parliament has been a victim of its own successes with CETA. Looking back at our unprecedented achievements, some believe that we could and should try to push for even more. Although I have some sympathy with this position, I am convinced that now is the time ratify this deal. CETA is the most progressive trade deal ever negotiated and we should celebrate our successes.

Furthermore, political events across the Atlantic demand that the EU takes a lead now on trade issues. Between unfettered free markets on the one hand and Trump-style protectionism on the other, CETA offers a forward-looking solution to the problems and opportunities that arise from globalisation. It will be a further measure of how progressive this deal is when we are able to compare it with the first drafts of the forthcoming (we are told) UK-US trade deal. In searching for a quick deal, my fear is that Theresa May and the Brexiteers will force through a shallow text with the Trump administration, with little mention of the workers’ rights and environment provisions that we have worked so hard for in CETA. The EU-Canada deal will provide the alternative model that progressive British forces can hold up as an example when holding the Tory government’s trade policy to account.

Citizens have raised concerns throughout the process and the European social democrats have responded quickly and effectively, securing unprecedented changes to the final text and solid guarantees on issues that are important to Labour voters. The Canadians share most of our dearest values and CETA should be seen as a way of strengthening our bilateral relationship on a progressive basis, whilst providing important economic opportunities for Scotland.

It is for these reasons that on Tuesday 24 January I voted to give parliamentary consent for CETA. The trade committee voted by a large majority in favour of the agreement, which will now come before the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.


Why CETA is a good deal for Europe

We are entering a new era for global trade. Faced with unfettered globalisation on the one hand and Trump-style protectionism on the other, modern trade agreements like CETA can help...

It will be of no surprise to anyone reading this that I disagree with the First Minister on many issues, not least that of Scottish independence. But we do agree on one important point. We both want Scotland to have the closest possible relationship with our European partners following a Brexit neither of us wanted.

Having devoted the majority of my professional life to the European project and Britain’s place within it, the result on June 23 came as a hammer blow. After coming to terms with this tremendous act of self-harm, my focus has now switched to preserving as many of the EU’s benefits - including the Erasmus programme, scientific funding, security cooperation, social rights etc - as possible for my constituents.
This is why I agreed to join the First Ministers Standing Council on Europe, and along with a group of experts I have been advising the Scottish government on EU issues.
The Scottish government’s paper, Scotland’s Place in Europe, is the first significant piece of work to be inspired by this specialist committee, although as is clearly stated within the paper, it is not a view that is wholly shared by everyone on the Standing Council.
This is the first detailed plan on Brexit from any government in the UK, and Mrs Sturgeon should be commended for her attempt to advance the national debate. The paper suggests three options:

  1. The UK as a whole remains part of the single market and the EU customs union;
  2. Scotland remains a member of the European Union by becoming an independent country; and
  3. Scotland seeks an innovative ‘differentiated’ solution, whereby it remains a member of the single market through the European Economic Area (EEA) and part of the UK, even as the rest of the UK departs.

After Theresa May’s speech at Lancaster House, those three choices have now become two, as she made clear that she would be taking the UK out of the single market.
It is my view that though Brexit increases the emotional support for independence - as it reveals another issue where mainstream Scottish opinion is different to that of our English neighbours, it simultaneously damages the economic argument. Although Scotland relies to a large extent on the European single market for its trade, it relies an awful lot more on the long-established single market with the rest of the UK.
In the First Minister’s third option is an implicit recognition of this fact. Economically, it makes sense not to cut Scotland off from either market, so why not try to stay in both?
It is this differentiated solution that has naturally caught the most attention. The plan, for part of a non-member state to retain access to the single market and to remain part of a customs union with that non-member state, is certainly audacious. It is also unprecedented, although in the paper the authors go to great lengths to point out that individual aspects of the arrangement do have precedents. For example, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are members of the EEA but not members of the EU customs union, and Greenland and the Faroe Islands are territories of a member state (Denmark) with bespoke deals that let them be outside the EU.
The paper also points to the UK government’s insistence that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as proof of ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’.
Although it answers many questions, the First Minister’s paper also poses many more: How will they manage the administrative burden of two separate tariff rates within the same territory? How will the rules of origin (a trade term establishing where a product has been made and therefore what the tariff should be) be managed within the UK? What happens when the UK starts making its own trade deals?
So far, so technical. But as my colleague from the Standing Council, Charles Grant, has already pointed out, this plan requires an enormous amount of political will, both from our European partners - like Spain, who are wary of separatist movements in their own country - and of course Theresa May and the UK government. Letting Scotland access the single market means us accepting the four freedoms, which of course would entail the UK ceding powers like immigration and business regulation, hitherto a no-no in even the most generous devolution deal.
All in all this is a good first attempt to find the right solution for Scotland in these historic times and I look forward to continued debate on the specific issues. Scotland has a head start in planning terms. It’s about time the rest of the UK caught up.

Securing Scotland’s European future

It will be of no surprise to anyone reading this that I disagree with the First Minister on many issues, not least that of Scottish independence. But we do agree...

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