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Competence to conclude free trade agreements

As a member state that is shortly to become a non-member state, the UK must take a keen interest in the CJEU opinion on a free trade deal with Singapore, explains Paul Stanley QC

1 August 2017

It is sometimes said that you can tell a good compromise because it leaves both parties unhappy. If so, the CJEU’s decision in Opinion 2/15 can certainly be regarded as a good compromise. It is a hugely important decision in a field that is about to become of even more direct interest to the UK: competence to conclude free trade agreements.

If an agreement falls within the exclusive competence of the EU, then it is for the EU to conclude it, which normally means that individual member states have no veto. But agreements with elements that lie within the EU’s power and elements that lie within the member states’ retained power are known as ‘mixed’ agreements. They need to be concluded jointly by the member states, which effectively gives every member state a veto over the agreement.

‘Mixity’ is likely to be a particular problem becaus...

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