Canada sees our post-Brexit potential – and so should we

Canada sees our post-Brexit potential – and so should we

There were many in Canada who believed Brexit would be the swansong of North American prosperity; the economy would enter recession, the manufacturing industry would crumble and thousands of jobs would be lost.

Even a distance of 6,000 miles between London and Vancouver (where I reside) did not dilute the media’s disgust for the 52% of Brits who voted to leave the European Union. The common themes of xenophobia, dirty campaigning and false promises were capitalised across newspapers, while news channels conducted interviews with economists predicting the apocalyptic impact of the referendum on the Canadian economy.

Even the Bank of Canada publicly stated that global GDP would fall by 2018, while journalists continued their frenzy of predicting dire consequences for the healthcare sector, pension funds and the manufacturing industry.

It seemed life in the Great White North was about to change for the worst, and it was all the British public’s fault.

However, you will be pleased to know that as I’m writing this (nearly six months since the Brexit vote), life has continued as normal. As far as I can tell, Canada still has one of the best performing healthcare systems in the world, manufacturing industry continues to grow, and no one has lost their job because of a referendum vote. The Bank of Canada even revised its economic forecast to 2.2% growth for 2017, and Export Development Canada (EDC, a leading state-funded export credit agency) opened a new exports hub in London to capitalise on post-Brexit trading opportunities – hardly the economic meltdown that the media predicted in June!

Over 500 Canadian companies operate in the UK, ranging from transportation and communications to mining and manufacturing, and an official statement from EDC in September confirmed the group’s rationale for investing in the UK:

“The EDC sees strong growth and opportunities in developing trade links with the UK [and takes] a long-term view on the strength of the UK economy following the Brexit vote…”

If such words were not welcoming enough for Brexiteers, Canada’s Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, hinted recently that Canada would be willing to work on a new trade deal once we leave the EU.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last month, Morneau said “we’ll have a long-standing approach to positive trade relationships with the UK and we’ll work together with whatever framework that comes out of the agreement with Europe”, while also describing Canada’s relationship with the UK as “particularly special”.

Morneau’s comments come after the EU and Canada finally signed a landmark trade deal (CETA) which took over seven years to draft. However, as close Commonwealth allies, there is no reason why a “CANUK” trade deal could not be finalised in a fraction of the time, and even open the door for the UK to join NAFTA, effectively turning the North American Free Trade Agreement into the “North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement” (something which Morneau did not rule out in his interview).

Of course, as expected, there will be plenty of opportunities for journalists to continue their anti-Brexit rhetoric, hoping to discredit any positive outcomes from the historic vote on 23rd June. There are still plenty of factions within the Canadian media who are sceptical of the UK’s future.

But despite their efforts, the Canadian Government’s optimism and confidence in our nation is something to be acknowledged. With a free trade deal already being discussed with the world’s tenth largest economy (and the potential for advancing NAFTA in the near future), Brexit has become the greatest economic opportunity for the United Kingdom.

Rest assured, the British economy will go from strength to strength independent of the EU, and if Canada sees potential for economic prosperity in our nation, so too will the rest of the world. Now we just need to see the potential in ourselves, and capitalise on the opportunities available to us as a sovereign, independent country.