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“EU proposal for Investment Court likely to require Irish referendum” – Matt Carthy MEP

4 January, 2016 - by Matt Carthy MEP

Major Implications for TTIP ratification

The ongoing EU-US trade deal (TTIP) negotiations could effectively need to be ratified by a referendum of the Irish people posing a huge difficulty for proponents of the deal which has attracted unprecedented opposition across Europe.

This is according to Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy who has confirmed that he has commissioned formal legal opinion into the constitutionality of the European Investment Court proposed by the EU commission.

The Investment Court has been proposed in response to resistance to the inclusion of an Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism within Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP).

However, preliminary legal opinion suggests that such a court would contravene the Irish constitution and therefore require a referendum.

Mr Carthy said:

“TTIP negotiations began in June 2013 but the level of opposition to it is greater than anyone could have imagined, with millions of people across Europe engaging in campaigns against a deal that they believe would have negative implications for human rights as well as environmental and other standards. 

“The greatest cause of concern across the EU regarding TTIP is the inclusion of an Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism.  Basically this means that there would be provision, denied to everyone else, for corporations to sue sovereign governments who implement measures that impact on profit making potential.  

“In an effort to minimise the huge levels of opposition the European Commission have tried to repackage ISDS and in this vein they recently proposed a new European Investment Court.

“The creation of this new court would open taxpayers in Ireland up to liabilities not previously imagined.  It would not engage with national courts, it would limit the ability of the Irish Government to legislate freely when it comes to public services and consequently it would have massive implications for the Irish Constitution. 

“Having spoken to a number of law professionals it certainly appears that the adoption of such an Investment Court as proposed by the Commission would create a new jurisdiction which in turn will require a change to the Irish Constitution.  I have now commissioned formal legal opinion from a senior counsel and I expect that it will confirm that an Irish referendum will be required if the commission proceeds as it has indicated.

“This would result in a referendum in Ireland on the new Investment Court which would naturally become a referendum on TTIP itself.  For TTIP proponents this is a nightmare scenario as they have gone to great lengths to limit debate and, indeed, deny public access to most documentation relating to the deal.

“However, such a scenario could only be a good thing for the democratic process and for citizen engagement.  With the prospects of a referendum proponents of TTIP will no longer be able to hide from this debate or continue to deny the very real threats that TTIP presents to the rights of workers and communities or to the future of the Irish economy.

“Sinn Féin, and millions of citizens across the EU, would welcome such a scenario”.


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