The Prime Minister struck a landmark Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) with the EU on December 24, 2020. The historic deal contains more than 1,000 pages of legal texts and covers the transportation of goods and services to and from Europe – worth more than £600billion. The deal came into force at the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 – but has been met with fierce criticism from die-hard Remainers.
Anti-Brexit supporters have already called for the UK to change the deal, meanwhile others have started a campaign for Britain to regain EU membership.
But, the prospect of any changes being made to hundreds of pages of legal text has been dismissed by a leading lawyer.
Steve Peers, Professor of EU Law, Human Rights Law and World Trade Law at the University of Essex, has highlighted three key issues Remainers could face in any potential legal challenge against the Brexit trade deal.
Professor Peers points out EU courts have “strict rules” and insisted it is “very unlikely that UK businesses challenging the TCA will have standing”.
Secondly, he insists there needs to be a “substantive legal argument” in relation to the Brexit trade deal, and highlights the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) tend to hand such disputes to other EU bodies.
Finally, Professor Peers says if it was “illegal” for the EU to sign the trade deal, then Brexit would not be overturned and the UK and EU would end things without a trade agreement.
In a series of posts on Twitter, he wrote: “First, standing to sue directly in the EU courts is subject to strict rules.
“It is very unlikely that UK businesses challenging the TCA will have standing. They could, however, ask a national court to ask the CJEU to rule on the validity of the EU signing/concluding the treaty.
“Second, there needs to be a substantive legal argument. This is conceivable, although the CJEU has tended to leave political discretion to the EU institutions as regards the content of trade policy.
“It’s more difficult for UK businesses” is not a legal argument.
“Third, the remedies. If it was illegal for the EU to sign/conclude the TCA, the consequence is not to overturn Brexit or to return to the transition period.
“It’s that the transition period ended with no trade deal. (NB the withdrawal agreement is a separate treaty).”
In a separate post, Professor Peers suggested a legal challenge to the Brexit trade deal may only be beneficial to a hardline Brexiteer who wanted a no deal outcome.
He directed those who remain against the UK leaving the EU to pursue a political route rather than a legal one.
Professor Peers wrote: “To put it bluntly, it would make sense for an advocate of ‘no deal Brexit’ to challenge the validity of the Brexit deal.
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“But it’s conversely hard to see any plausible route to improving the deal by this route.
“And there’s zero route to overturning Brexit via litigation.”
He added: “People who want to improve the deal should get involved in political campaigning to improve the deal. People who want to rejoin the EU should get involved in political campaigning to rejoin the EU.”