Green Party seeks internal consensus on EU-Canada trade deal

Dispute within party on Ceta agreement has caused ‘animosity’, members say

The Green Party  will hold an online meeting on Saturday for members to discuss the EU’s trade deal with Canada amid continuing opposition to the Coalition’s plan to ratify the deal. Photograph: iStock

The Green Party will hold an online meeting on Saturday for members to discuss the EU’s trade deal with Canada amid continuing opposition to the Coalition’s plan to ratify the deal. Photograph: iStock

 

Grassroots members of the Green Party have said the final decision on the controversial Ceta trade agreement has been taken out of their hands by the leadership and could result in resignations.

The internal dispute on the trade deal has caused a “break” between the leadership and grassroots and has caused “animosity”, members of the party have said.

The party will hold an online meeting on Saturday for members to discuss the EU’s trade deal with Canada amid continuing opposition to the Coalition’s plan to ratify the deal.

A Dáil vote to ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement – known as Ceta – was postponed before Christmas amid opposition from some Green TDs. However, Government sources have indicated that a vote could take place as early as next month.

Dublin Green Party councillor Peter Kavanagh has said one of the most contentious issues is whether supporting the trade deal was explicitly provided for in the Coalition’s programme for government. It says the three parties will “support new and existing EU trade deals”. Mr Kavanagh said there was no “explicit mention” of Ceta .

“Regardless of whether it is a good deal or not, we have a party policy and to my mind this is an argument that has to be hashed out. Either that clause in the programme for government covers Ceta or it does not. That is fundamentally the tipping point.”

‘Not a debate’

Mr Kavanagh said although Saturday’s meeting is to be welcomed, it is “fundamentally not a debate on whether we should ratify Ceta. The leadership have decided this is not a debate. If the party wants to be sensible there will have to be more engagement ”.

He said as things stand any final decision on Ceta has been “taken out of the hands of the membership” and warned that further resignations, on top of recent departures, could follow.

Rathfarnham-Templeogue councillor Laura Donaghy said the party’s policy has not officially changed since a decision was made in 2016 to oppose Ceta. “My understanding is there are no further moves afoot, other than a plan that the parliamentary party will approve this, that seems to be the direction of travel. The policy is still that we as a party are not in favour of Ceta and that was agreed in 2016.”

Other grassroots members have said they are disappointed that the leadership expect the rest of the party to fall into line . One member, speaking off the record, said the issue had caused a “break” between the leadership, some of the parliamentary party and the grassroots. “It has caused such animosity.”

The Ceta deal was agreed in 2016 between the EU and Canada and though it has not been ratified by several EU countries, it has been provisionally applied, removing most tariffs between the two trading partners. However, the proposal for investor-state tribunals – which opponents claim will strengthen the hand of private companies – remains highly controversial.