Skip to content

The Brexit vote and CETA

Justin Trudeau and David Cameron

What implications does the Brexit vote have on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)?

At this hour (just after midnight ET), the BBC, ITV and Sky News are all projecting a Leave win.

With 51 of 382 local authorities still to declare, the referendum results are:

Leave 52% 14,549,521

Remain 48% 13,632,962

Prior to the vote, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau commented, “Great Britain has always been a strong and positive voice around the European table in support of CETA. So we certainly hope that the outcome of tomorrow will continue to assure that CETA has as many strong voices in support of it as we move forward towards ratification and implementation of an important deal for Canadians, for jobs and for our shared future.”

Beyond the British government being represented on the Council of the European Union (which would have a critical say in the ratification of CETA), the UK also has 73 members in the 751-member European Parliament. It remains to be seen how their departure would impact the final ratification vote on CETA that is expected to take place in November-December of this year or in January-February 2017.

The Toronto Star has reported, “Finance Minister Bill Morneau [says] ‘We’re watching in Canada and we’re anxious.’ …If the U.K. stays in the EU, that means big savings for Canadian businesses. But if the U.K. backs out of the EU, it would have to negotiate its own separate deal with Canada, a lengthy process that could take decades.”

That introduces the idea of a separate UK-Canada free trade agreement.

Back in February, iPolitics also noted, “A ‘Brexit’ would have implications for Canada as EU officials say deals signed with the EU could have to be signed again with the U.K., depending on the terms of any potential changes.” Earlier today, the Independent reported, “The UK Government would hope to secure trade deals with non-EU countries within two years. …If we were still the fifth-biggest economy in the world and had not suffered a big shock after a Brexit vote, countries like America, China and Canada might consider a trade deal. But these countries are already negotiating with the EU and so, as Barack Obama warned, Britain could go to the ‘back of the queue’.”

War On Want executive director John Hillary has previously commented, “War on Want will not be running a campaign for the UK to leave or to remain in the EU. We hold to the principle of internationalism that unites social movements across borders, and we remain actively committed to the task of building a People’s Europe from below, whatever the institutions imposed from above. …We need a new union that gives people’s rights primacy over and above the interests of transnational capital, and that defends the free movement of migrants not just within Europe but also from outside it. Whatever the outcome of the coming UK referendum, War on Want will continue to join with others from across the continent (and beyond) in the project to develop this new European reality from below.”

And Global Justice Now trade campaigner Guy Taylor wrote on his ballot, “You ask me if I want neoliberalism, racism and inequality served up by Westminster and Brussels or just Westminster. This is a choice I reject. I choose not to fear the consequences. I choose to resist.”

In short, it would appear that it’s possible that CETA without the UK could still go to a ratification vote in the European Parliament. It’s not clear how the loss of 73 British MEPs could impact what’s expected to be a razor thin vote in the European Parliament. That said, it’s very likely that the agenda of the European Parliament will be in turmoil for months to come. And it would appear that a UK-Canada ‘free trade’ agreement could also be proposed (though it could be years before those negotiations start and more years after that until talks are concluded). Or it could mean there would be some process for the UK to join the Canada-EU CETA.

The Council of Canadians remains committed to engaging with our British and European allies to build economic relations based on social and ecological justice.

Further reading
Will the Brexit referendum impact on CETA? (May 28, 2015)