The High Court has dismissed a challenge to the CETA international trade deal from Green Party TD Patrick Costello.
The court ruled that ratification of the controversial trade deal between the EU and Canada “does not entail an unconstitutional transfer of the State’s sovereignty.”
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was agreed in 2014 and is already being provisionally applied; however, it must be formally ratified by each individual member state before it becomes law.
One of the main bones of contention surrounding the agreement is the establishment of a new Investment Court System, made up of CETA Tribunals, that could see private companies sue member states over regulatory decisions.
In his High Court challenge, Deputy Costello argued that ratification of the deal would have a chilling effect on the state's willingness to introduce regulations regarding the environment.
He claimed the establishment of the tribunals involves “an unconstitutional transfer of sovereignty” from the State and questioned how this could be done without a referendum.
In her judgment, Ms Justice Butler said Deputy Costello had not established that ratification of CETA in the manner proposed would be “clearly unconstitutional.”
She found that the agreement will bind the State under international law – but will have no “direct effect in Ireland and cannot be invoked before the Irish Courts.
Judge Butler also found that the tribunals will not have jurisdiction to declare any Irish law or any act taken by an Irish authority invalid.
She said ratification of the treaty is Constitutionally permissible and noted that it is “a matter for the Dáil as to whether it is politically desirable to do so.”
In a statement after the decision was announced, Deputy Costello said he would study the judgement before deciding whether to appeal. He noted that significant issues remain that “would benefit from being clarified by the Supreme Court.”
“The reality is CETA and the Investor Court System remain a huge concern and, put simply, are a threat to meaningful climate action and other progressive policies required across the EU,” he said.
“In recent months we have seen the Dutch government sued for billions through investor courts for trying to move away from burning fossil fuels. Recent investor court decisions internationally have shown that the claimed safeguards are in fact worthless.
“CETA will dangerously weaken Government’s ability to respond to the issues of climate, health and housing at a time when action is needed most.”
A vote on the ratification of the deal was due to take place last February; however, it was deferred when the matter was referred to the Oireachtas European Affairs Committee.
The issue has caused a deep split among Green Party TDs in particular – with Several prominent members and local representatives warning that they can't see themselves staying in the party if it backs CETA.
Meanwhile, the Oireachtas committee is now split down the middle on the issue and will not be making a recommendation either way in its final report.
The Government had hoped its majority on the committee would see it coming out in favour of the deal; however, Green Party Senator Vincent Martin vote against ratification, ensuring a 50-50 split on the 14-member committee.