Who gets to decide what on MARPOL or on Brexit? Normally when sovereign states negotiate and reach a deal it is the two states that ratify the deal according to the different national procedures. For the UK it’s pretty straightforward (if you think that Scotland and Northern Ireland and Wales have no say, at least politically). Parliament in London decides. But what about the EU. Is it just the Commission that negotiates and the Council and the Parliament that decide?

This was the question the Court of Justice in Luxembourg (the EU’s supreme court) had to decide in relation to the deal concluded between the EU and Singapore. How should the EU ratify the deal. The Court ruled that because the deal impacted certain EU Member State policies and rights, it needed to be ratified not only by the Council and Parliament (on behalf of the EU) but also by the 28 member states. This makes ratification difficult. And opens the UK up to difficult negotiations on Brexit. Could Spain veto a deal unless there is agreement on Gibraltar?

There is some good in all this particularly in the transport sector. The Court has bent over backwards to limit the policy areas where Member States get an input. In other words, it would be possible to craft a deal that would leave out those areas were the Member States have to sign.

The Court ruled, differently from the earlier advice from the Advocate General, that transport services come within the exclusive competence of the EU. This could have a big impact on how the EU interacts with MARPOL and various maritime agencies. So plenty to think about.