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Green Party TD lodges High Court challenge over controversial CETA trade deal

The trade deal has divided the Green Party with Costello and TD Neasa Hourigan signalling they will not back the deal.

TD Patrick Costello
TD Patrick Costello

A GREEN PARTY TD has lodged a High Court challenge against his own Government over the controversial international trade deal CETA. 

Patrick Costello, TD for Dublin South Central, lodged the challenge on Monday against the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada.

Costello told his parliamentary party, including the leadership, on Monday evening after the legal challenge was lodged. 

The trade deal has divided the Green Party with Costello and TD Neasa Hourigan signalling they will not back the deal. 

A vote to ratify the deal was planned for December 2020 but was delayed until the new year.

It was last month referred to an Oireachtas committee further delaying a vote that will likely split the party. 

Prior to that delayed vote, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan had affirmed his support for a ratification of the deal.  

In a letter to party members in early February, Ryan said that there is “an expectation that CETA should be ratified” as part of the Programme for Government (PfG). 

“There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to support trade deals, and there is an expectation that CETA should be ratified,” the letter said.

CETA is not explicitly referenced in the PfG but it says that the government will “support new and existing EU trade deals”.

Ryan’s letter says that there has been “a lot of discussion within the party” about the issue of CETA. 

Hourigan previously told TheJournal.ie the current environment in the party is “unpleasant” as a result of disagreement over CETA.  

Social justice-focused Green Party sub-group the Just Transition Greens have also been vocally opposed to CETA. 

One of the concerns raised by various parties about the CETA deal is the establishment of a new Investment Court System that could see private companies sue member states over regulatory decisions that negatively impact their profits.

Most of the provisions in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which will remove the vast majority of trade barriers between Canada and the European Union, are already in operation.

In a statement Costello said: “On Monday I lodged proceedings in the High Court to seek clarification on who gets to ratify the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, commonly known as CETA.

“I had sought the opinion of counsel on the ratification process, in particular the Investor Court System (ICS) element of CETA which will come into effect if ratified.

“The ICS involves a transfer of sovereignty and of judicial power incompatible with the Constitution. It is the opinion of counsel that there is a good state-able case that the ratification of CETA, and in particular the ratification of the ICS without a referendum would be contrary to Article 15 and Article 34 of the Constitution.”

Costello went on to say “it is of fundamental importance that the members of the Dáil, myself included, who would vote on whether to ratify CETA know that our votes are constitutional. Only the courts can give us complete certainty on that question. 

I have taken this action as an individual citizen and it is a personal action.

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He concluded: “Investor Courts as seen in other jurisdictions are hugely problematic since they allow for the governments to be directly sued by companies outside of existing legal systems.

“This in turn may affect how policy makers decide policy in the long run. As such, it is of crucial importance that if CETA is to be ratified, then the process used is the correct one. While there might be different views on this question of does CETA need a referendum, the only place we can get a definitive answer is the courts.”
 

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