The European Commission may divide its agreement with Mercosur in two parts to ensure Ireland cannot block it. International agreements covering only trade issues, such as tariffs and import quotas, are under the control of the European Commission. Brussels sources say that in this case, the council of trade ministers sent by each EU country can approve a deal by qualified majority vote, with no individual veto. The European Parliament votes its “consent,” without a full debate.

When the EU secures a deal including other political aspects, it becomes a “mixed” or “association” agreement. This must secure unanimous approval by the council of ministers. Then the European Parliament and each national parliament, including the Oireachtas, must debate and approve the agreement.

To avoid delays experienced with the EU-Canada agreement, the European Commission separated its recent deal with Japan into two parts. Trade measures entered into force quickly through the simpler ratification procedure, while other aspects such as co-operation on climate change will take longer.

Similar plan

Some observers expect a similar plan for Mercosur. “The EU-Mercosur trade agreement concluded last Friday is part of an association agreement, including also provisions related to larger political co-operation,” a Commission source said, with ratification procedures decided on a “case-by-case basis”. A European Parliament spokesperson added: “As there is no final text yet, we don’t know what shape the final agreement takes.”