The foundational tenets of modern capitalism – that free trade brings prosperity and is the surest way of ensuring the peaceful co-existence of nations – have been rejected by one of the most advanced trading nations in the world.As Colby Cosh points out, the media and the twitterverse, have maligned 17 million UK voters,
Look at the list of imprecations being hurled at Leave voters Friday, many of them by Canadians. They’re “small-minded,” “isolationist,” “short-sighted,” “fact-blind,” “racist” countryside boobs without vision or understanding.But as Cosh correctly argues, what the Brexiters wanted is what Canada already has,
[T]he intellectual leaders of the Leave camp are constantly upholding Canada as a model for immigration policy, with its self-interested, skill-privileging, but globally indiscriminate points system. They also cite us as an obvious potential partner for the kind of bilateral trade deal Britain will now be free to pursue on its own. Basically, the Leave campaigners didn’t put it this way or incorporate it into a slogan, but they want the U.K.’s relationship with Europe — a polyglot kaleidoscope of radically dissimilar nation states, some of them failing — to be the same friendly, wary relationship Canada has with the United States.A few Canadian media voices took a positive view on the Brexit vote, including Terrence Corcoran's op-ed, Don’t be bamboozled, Brexit creates huge opportunities for the U.K.,
British voters are proposing to leave a slow-growth fiscal disaster zone mired in sclerotic regulation and over-regulation, persistent protectionism, mismanaged immigration policy and an often corrupt political structure controlled by unaccountable power brokers with occasional thuggish tendencies... Brexit need not imperil EU trade deals with Canada or other nations, unless the EU becomes self-destructively vindictive and uses the Brexit threat to create turmoil in trade relations... Indeed, there is every reason to accelerate the creation of trade deals.Canada's political leaders have been relatively quiet. After urging Brits to Remain, Prime Minister Trudeau was booed by a crowd in Quebec City when he said, "We respect the choice of the British people and will remain a strong partner of the UK and the European Union".
Canada's International Trade Minister, Chrystia Freeland, spoke to her European Union counterpart, Cecilia Malmstrom, and reiterated that Canada remains firm in its commitment to ratifying the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). There was no indication that Freeland put in a call to her UK counterpart.
But, as Trevor Tombe points out, the UK accounts for half of Canada-EU trade and is Canada's largest non-US investment partner.
And as RBC Economics observes, the U.K. has been a "champion of CETA, so the country’s exit from the EU removes an important supporter of the agreement at this crucial juncture".
In my opinion, Canada needs to get its priorities straight and remember it's history. The most positive and constructive suggestion that I have seen since the Brexit vote has come from none other than Conrad Black, whose opinion piece in the National Post argued,
[T]his is a place where Canada could play a key role, as it could, and should, in reviving the top tier of the Commonwealth (Canada, U.K., Australia, India, Singapore, New Zealand) as a coherent but not artificially united bloc, in close relations with Western Europe and the United States.... It will be ... a great chance for Canada, if for the first time since the Mulroney era anyone in our Foreign Affairs Ministry has the imagination to grasp it.Canada should now be the first to step forward with an offer to its oldest ally, the United Kingdom, to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement with the UK, which could be expanded to include other members of the Commonwealth. At the same time, it should continue to pursue the ratification of CETA and other free trade agreements that advance Canada's interests.