Belgium’s French-speaking region blocks EU and Canadian free trade deal

“We are not in a position to sign CETA,” Mr Michel said, after brief talks with Belgium’s regional leaders in Brussels broke up without a compromise, despite a looming European Union deadline, reports The Telegraph.

The federal government, the German community and Flanders said ‘yes.’ Wallonia – one of Belgium’s five regional governments who have a say in the treaty – the Brussels city government and the French community said ‘no’,'” he added.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is due in Brussels on Thursday to sign the trade pact, officially known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, but the EU requires approval from all 28 member states to go ahead.

But, under Belgium’s devolved power structure, Mr Michel needs clearance from all of the country’s regional governments to give his assent.

European Council president Donald Tusk is now expected to tell the Canadian Prime Minister to cancel his visit as the deal cannot go ahead.

Wallonia regional leader Paul Magnette today said he could not endorse the accord under such pressure.

“Prime Minister (Michel) told us that the head of the European Council Donald Tusk wanted an answer from us today, yes or no,” Mr Magnette said.

“In the current circumstances, we cannot give a ‘yes’ today,” he added.

CETA would link the EU’s single market of 500 million people,the world’s biggest, with the tenth largest global economy.

Supporters say it will provide jobs and growth but opponents argue it will undermine EU consumer and environmental standards and give multinationals corporations too much say.

Belgium has progressively decentralised its political structure in a bid to end crippling squabbles between Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons.

Wallonia accounts for more than half of Belgium’s territory and about 3.5m of its 10m population.

Once the country’s economic dynamo, the region was badly hit by the closure of steel plants and coal mines at the end of the last century, and again after the 2008 financial crisis.