Skip to content

Will the Brexit referendum impact on CETA?

Harper Cameron

Will Cameron’s threat to walk away from the EU complicate Harper’s CETA agenda?

As the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) goes to the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as well as the European Parliament for ratification votes, it appears that the UK and Europe could be embroiled in another issue. Will the UK leave Europe?

The Guardian reports, “Britain will vote to leave the EU unless European leaders agree to a ‘substantial package of reform’ demanded by [British prime minister] David Cameron, [Philip Hammond] the foreign secretary has warned. …The prime minister is planning to demand change in four broad areas. He wants to: 1) Bar unemployed EU migrants from claiming benefits and force EU migrants in work to wait four years before claiming in-work benefits. 2) Hand the UK an optout from the ‘ever closer union’ declaration. 3) Ensure that EU member states outside the eurozone, such as the UK, could not have changes to the rules of the single market imposed on them by eurozone countries. 4) Give national parliaments the right to club together to block new legislative proposals.”

The article adds, “Voters will be asked: ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?'” In terms of a timeline, the article notes the “referendum campaign could be launched in the spring of 2016 ahead of a vote in the summer or autumn of next year.” And it could be a bumpy time. The newspaper says, “[The foreign secretary] said he expected some of Britain’s 27 EU partners to adopt hardline tactics…” It’s likely that the referendum campaign would be launched in May-June 2016 just after the 650 Members of Parliament in Britain could be voting on the ratification of CETA (in January 2016) and around the time that the European Parliament, which includes 73 British MEPs, would be voting on CETA (in April 2016).

The Council of Canadians has highlighted the CETA debate in Britain in various campaign blogs over the years:

– In Where does the UK stand on CETA? (January 2011), we referenced a Postmedia News article that suggested, “Tory skepticism toward the EU and hostile British attitudes toward immigration are creating fears [CETA] will be difficult to sell politically a trade deal that implies an influx of foreign professionals to Britain.”

– In Canada’s High Commissioner to the UK backs CETA, tar sands, austerity measures (February 2011), we noted a Scotsman article reporting, “[Canada’s high commissioner to Britain] said Canadian firms had invested ‘billions not millions’ in the North Sea, including Talisman, Suncor and CNR, which produced 30 per cent of oil and gas in the North Sea.” Those corporations could use the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision to stop a moratorium on deep water drilling being sought by environmental groups given the accidental leaks, serious injuries to workers and climate change impacts of those operations.

– In Canadian company owns stake in major shale-gas find in the UK (June 2013), we included news reports that noted, “A leading UK shale gas explorer [iGas] has said estimates of its resources in north-west England [in Cheshire] are considerably higher than previously thought and could meet gas consumption in Britain for decades” and “IGas, which is 20 per cent owned by Calgary-based Nexen Inc., has been drilling in the Bowland basin, a large rock formation that stretches across much of England.” Again, we raised here the spectre of an ISDS challenge should Britain want to ban fracking as other European countries have done.

– In CETA would hinder water remunicipalization in England (November 2013), we noted that the Canadian pension funds that own the expensive (and very profitable) privatized water services in England could utilize the ISDS provision to challenge a future British government seeking to remunicipalize those water services (privatized by then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher).

– In All-party motion in UK expresses concern about investor-state provisions (January 2014), we highlighted an Independent article which says, “An Early Day Motion in Parliament, signed by MPs from all parties [the Conservatives, Labour and the Greens], calls for the [United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] talks to be frozen until the [ISDS] issue is resolved.”

For more on our campaign to stop CETA, please click here.