In October, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated that the United Kingdom was preparing to leave the European Union’s trading area without a deal by the end of the year, citing the unwillingness of Brussels diplomats and bureaucrats to negotiate in good faith.
The discussions are complex, but ultimately boil down to two big issues: regulatory sovereignty, and access to British fishing waters. In November, the CEO of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) slammed the EU for grinding negotiations to a halt by demanding fishing access to the UK’s waters and artificially making a link between trade and fishing access.
“In our mind, they are two completely separate issues which should be dealt with separately,” Barrie Deas told The Express.
The December 31 deadline for new agreements to be made is quickly approaching, and along with the European Union’s continued attempts at making an example of the UK for daring to leave the bloc, the expectation that former Vice President Joe Biden will become the next President of the United States is likely to cause new problems.
The Conservative government has had four years to establish a new trade deal with the United States, during which the country was led by a fiercely pro-UK president. Donald Trump repeatedly expressed a willingness to establish a new trade deal with the United Kingdom. But the situation now looks very different.
Just one day after the media called the race for Joe Biden, reports suggested that the incoming Democrat may issue a “ruthless” ultimatum on Boris Johnson to sign a deal with the EU or face unfavourable trading conditions with their historically. It’s not hard to believe, given Joe Biden’s repeated references to his Irish background, his interjections on Brexit in the past, and rumours that both he and his vice-presidential pick, Senator Kamala Harris, simply don’t like Boris Johnson.
The British Prime Minister also suggested on November 8 that Biden would not be a “pushover” during trade talks, and attempted to calm concerns from the Biden camp over legislation that would allow the UK to override agreements made about Northern Ireland if the EU does agree to a deal.
Biden was also congratulated by Gerry Adams for being called as the winner of the US presidential election. Adams is a former member of the Irish terrorist organization, the Irish Republican Army, and tweeted a photograph of himself with the presidential candidate along with a former IRA chief who once attempted to murder an army officer. Biden’s allegiance to the Republic of Ireland and the European Union should therefore come as no surprise.
The UK’s Department for International Trade said in early November that “engagement was ongoing” with 15 countries that have existing trade deals with the European Union, but fears are growing that by December 31, the government will fall short.
If it turns out that the government really did waste four years failing to create a new agreement with the US, the trading relationship with Canada could become even more important. And thankfully, it looks as though Canada’s prime minister is receptive.
At the end of October, the Canadian government promised that a post-Brexit trade agreement with the United Kingdom would be easy to agree. Canada’s prime minister said that a rollover deal with the country would be “straightforward” and reaffirmed that Ottawa wanted to make the process much simpler than the trade talks with the EU. That is perhaps not surprising, as Canada has much to gain from a new trade deal with the UK, and has no hidden political agenda.
“There have been many discussions over the past years between myself and Prime Minister Johnson and his predecessor on that seamless transition,” Canada’s prime minister said.
As I have previously argued, Canada could win big on agricultural trade from a new deal with the UK, thanks in part to relaxed regulatory barriers. A new UK trade deal could significantly boost pork imports from Canada and grant a substantial boost to Canadian farmers who have not benefited from CETA in the way many originally predicted.
The UK is the third-largest buyer of Canadian exports, as well as Canada’s second-biggest source of Foreign Direct Investment. Conditions are already good and could get better. And, from the angle of a Brexiteer, establishing free trade on simple terms with Canada in a way that benefits both sides will show up European Union negotiators as the bullies they really are.
While it is unlikely to be the Canadian prime minister’s intention, continued cooperation on a trade deal with the UK will aid Brexit negotiations and potentially offset any attempts at further disruption from an incoming Biden administration.
Bad-faith negotiations from the EU and hostility from the Biden camp are major obstacles that must now be overcome by the British government. Brexit has always been an exercise in advancing free trade and giving Britain the chance to once again forge its own way in the world, and with the help of Canada, it can be a real success.
Jack Buckby is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
Photo by Tom Athawes on Unsplash.