Belgians block key EU pact with Canada

Belgium cannot sign a key EU trade deal with Canada, Prime Minister Charles Michel says, because of regional objections led by staunchly socialist Wallonia.

His statement appeared to dash hopes the Ceta deal could be signed by EU leaders and Canada on Thursday.

Mr Michel said that talks with French-speaking regions had broken down.

This is the EU’s most ambitious free trade deal to date but Belgium needs the regions’ approval to sign it.

Mr Michel said he had told European Council President Donald Tusk that Belgium could not sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta).

The other 27 EU governments want to sign Ceta, which has been in the pipeline for seven years.

The European Commission had set Belgium a Monday deadline to make its decision on the deal.

Wallonia, a region of 3.6 million people, wants stronger safeguards on labour, environmental and consumer standards.

On Monday, it emerged that two other Socialist-led, French-speaking parliaments also opposed Ceta.

“The federal government, the German community and Flanders said ‘yes.’ Wallonia, the Brussels city government and the French community said ‘no’,” Mr Michel said.