The national parliaments of EU member states may not be given a vote to approve the EU's Brexit trade deal with the UK, Brussels has indicated.
EU officials said they are "confident" that the scope of the agreement with Britain will be narrow enough that parliaments do not have to be given a vote – but said it might be decided to give them one anyway.
Under EU law, there are two types of trade agreements: "EU-only" deals and "mixed" deals. A deal is "EU-only" if it only covers policy areas that are the responsibility of the EU, while the latter cross into the prerogatives of member states.
EU-only deals only have to be approved by the EU collectively – meaning member state governments, the Commission, and European Parliament.
But the so-called "mixed deals" have to be ratified individually by member states according to their own constitutional requirements. In all cases this means the deal has to be put to their national parliament; in some states like Belgium, regions also get a say.
Mixed deals are politically much trickier to pass because different interests within member states can block them. For instance, the Belgian region of Wallonia famously held up a deal with Canada in 2016 over the lifting of agricultural tariffs and dispute resolution.
They also take a lot longer to fully implement – a crucial detail given the UK only has 11 months to get an agreement in place.
One senior EU official said: "We are confident that the mandate that we have proposed today will bring us to an agreement that can be concluded as an EU-only one.
"Of course, we will have to decide at the end of the process, and sometimes these things are not so much legal as political, whether we want to have the national parliaments ratifying.
"What we are prosing is an association procedure. We think that this could be ratified on an EU-only basis, and the legal basis for this is article 217."
Article 217 of the Lisbon Treaty says that "the Union may conclude with one or more third countries or international organisations agreements establishing an association involving reciprocal rights and obligations, common action and special procedure".
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