Britain Plans For Post Brexit World

Liam Fox addresses Canada-UK trade relations at CORIM conference

By Byron Toben

This past week, Britain made forays to buttress its post Brexit plans.

Prime Minister Theresa May was the first foreign leader to make a state visit to Washington, where talks with President Trump went smoothly, despite some differences on torture, NATO and Russia. No unexpected outbursts, and Ms May (Conservative PM since last July) is now known enough not to be confused between Elaine May and Elizabeth May (as the National Post’s Terrence Corcoran once did).

Quebec Prime Minister Philippe Couillard

Quebec Prime Minister Philippe Couillard

Meanwhile, her fellow conservative stalwart, Liam Fox, was visiting Canada as her Secretary of State for International Trade. Mr Fox, a medical doctor turned politician with experience in defence and trade is well received in Quebec, with its medical doctor heavy provincial leaders.

In his address to CORIM (Montreal Council on International Relations), he emphasized the UK ‘special relationship’ with both the USA and Canada (pas comme les autres?) and how this might well lead to a post Brexit relationship with a number of other countries (mostly ex British colonies).

As the UK is still for the moment a member of the EU, it cannot officially negotiate external trade agreements with other countries, but that does limit ‘discussions’ as to future possibilities, he said.

… he emphasized the UK ‘special relationship’ with both the USA and Canada… and how this might well lead to a post Brexit relationship…

There is a strong foundation for this, as there are already 125 UK companies operating in Quebec, employing about 10,000 workers in all of Canada, not to mention the reverse, with 100 Quebec firms in the UK, such as The Royal Bank and Bombardier in Britain.

Mr Fox also congratulated Canada for joining CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) with the European Union. (NOTE: CETA is still awaiting European Parliament ratification and some fear a possible Italexit – or Quitaly – may lead to a complete EU dissolution.)

Liam Fox CORIM WestmountMag.caMr Fox credited England with having invented modern free trade and its success when Britannia ruled the waves, belying Napoleon’s put down of England as just “a nation of shopkeepers”. Besides its continued membership in the WTO (World Trade Organization) and G-8, it may also, even having left the EU, apply someday to join it as a trade partner just as Canada has recently done.

I note that Napoleon also said, more accurately, “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep or she will shake the world.”

The Canadian trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne also spoke, pledging Canada’s commitment to free trade.

Images: Sylvie-Ann Paré

Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club

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