Britain’s High Commissioner to Canada has called for a free trade deal with the country, as the government embarks on the daunting task of creating an independent trade policy for the first time in 40 years.
Leaving the EU means Britain is denied access to more than 40 free trade deals signed between the bloc and other jurisdictions.
Now Britain must replicate those. There are three big problems.
The first is that the British government has no trade negotiators, and would need to hire them in large numbers.
The second is that no trade deals could be signed until it had fully left the EU.
The third is that if Scotland moves for independence, it creates huge uncertainty with negotiators over what, exactly, they are dealing with.
“We’re an island. We’ll be strongly pro-free trade outside the European Union,” Howard Drake, the High Commissioner, told Canadian radio.
“We’ll be looking to make trade deals with other countries around the world, including Canada. Other countries that are currently outside the EU do have very good trading relationships and trade agreements with other countries, so we can be the same. We have a lot to bring to the party.”
“We have always believed that the Commonwealth has a significant role,” he said. “Canada, the relationship, as we all know, is extraordinarily close. We have a unique relationship between us, given our history.”
Former Conservative cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre said on Friday the Liberal government should “immediately conclude” a trade deal with Britain.
Matthew Holehouse, Brussels Correspondent
Government is not a rudderless ship, Michael Fallon insists
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has denied the government is a rudderless ship after David Cameron’s post-Brexit vote resignation statement.
Speaking at an Armed Forces Day event in Cleethorpes, Mr Fallon told the Press Association: “The Prime Minister goes on, the government goes on until the Autumn, until there’s a new leader and a new government.
“We’ll remain at our posts and we have a big agenda. We were elected only a year ago and we’ve set out fresh legislation which we’re taking through parliament at the moment.”
He added: “Cabinet’s meeting on Monday. We were all elected just a year ago on a big programme of continuing to move the economy forward, creating more jobs, a programme of social reform, and investment in defence which you can see today.”
He also ruled himself out as a potential new prime minister in the wake of Mr Cameron’s decision to stand down.
“Well I’m not standing for the election. But you’re going to see, I think, several strong candidates coming forward over the next few days,” he said.
And he warned that Brexit would take time to achieve.
Mr Fallon said: “Leaving the European Union is not an easy or a quick business. It’s not been done before. Obviously it’s going to take time for the details to be worked out but that’s a matter now for the next prime minister and the new government in October.”
After 24 hours when there were several calls for his resignation, Lord Hill, Britain’s EU Commissioner, has announced that he will step down from his position as Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union in Brussels.
Lord Hill, a former minister in the major government who was a surprise appointment by David Cameron, said in a statement that he was “disappointed” in the referendum result, and had agreed with Jean-Claude Juncker a few weeks ago that he would stand aside in the event of Brexit.
In an interview with The Telegraph a week before the vote Lord Hill warned that the City would suffer serious consequences from a leave vote as France, Germany and other Eurozone countries moved to gang up on the UK to favour their own financial services industry.
“I wanted it to end differently and had hoped that Britain would want to play a role in arguing for an outward-looking, flexible, competitive, free trade Europe. But the British people took a different decision, and that is the way that democracy works,” he said in a statement.
“I came to Brussels as someone who had campaigned against Britain joining the euro and who was sceptical about Europe. I will leave it certain that, despite its frustrations, our membership was good for our place in the world and good for our economy. But what is done cannot be undone and now we have to get on with making our new relationship with Europe work as well as possible.”
Britain’s top political figure in Brussels quits role
The UK’s top political figure in Brussels has quit is role as the British Commissioner because he says it would not be “right” for him to continue after he had advocated Britain remaining.
Announcing his resignation, Jonathan Hill said in a statement:
“Like many people here and in the UK, I am obviously very disappointed about the result of the referendum. I wanted it to end differently and had hoped that Britain would want to play a role in arguing for an outward-looking, flexible, competitive, free trade Europe. But the British people took a different decision, and that is the way that democracy works.
As we move to a new phase, I don’t believe it is right that I should carry on as the British Commissioner as though nothing had happened. In line with what I discussed with the President of the Commission some weeks ago, I have therefore told him that I shall stand down.
At the same time, there needs to be an orderly handover, so I have said that I will work with him to make sure that happens in the weeks ahead.
I am very grateful to Jean-Claude Juncker for giving me the chance to work on financial services and for the opportunity to help support jobs and growth in Europe. I was also glad to have worked with other Commissioners in trying to take forward our programme of reform, and to have had the chance to work with excellent officials at DG FISMA and in my own team.
I came to Brussels as someone who had campaigned against Britain joining the euro and who was sceptical about Europe. I will leave it certain that, despite its frustrations, our membership was good for our place in the world and good for our economy. But what is done cannot be undone and now we have to get on with making our new relationship with Europe work as well as possible.”
‘EU must change direction or collapse’
The EU must change direction or collapse, Italian finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan has said.
“The unthinkable is happening,” he said. “A double reaction to Brexit is under way, one financial, one political. The financial one, at least until now, is limited. I am more worried about the political one.
“There is a cocktail of factors that can lead to various outcomes, including a further push towards disintegration.”
Speaking to Corriere della Sera, Padoan also said EU leaders had to understand there could be no more “business as usual” on the key issues of jobs, growth and immigration.
Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni meanwhile warned it would be naive to underestimate the significance of Britain leaving or the risk of a surge in anti-EU sentiment across the continent.
“The UK was not only one amongst 28 (member states). It had a great weight because of its financial markets and its international influence,” Gentiloni said in an interview with daily Il Messaggero.
“The risk (of political contagion) is such that we need to send a strong and clear message (that we are) revamping the European project.”
Padoan said Europe had to face up to citizens’ worries over immigration, unemployment and increasing inequality – which meant changing the ‘austerity’ budget rules Rome blames for exacerbating the current crises.
“Inequality is growing in Europe because growth is weak,” the minister said. “Italy respects the (deficit) rules but that does not mean we like them.”
Padoan added: “In the management of Europe, Ecofin included, the prevailing attitude is almost ‘business as usual’.
“But the situation we are in now is exceptional. We have to change our major priorities and we will see if (next week’s) European Council sends a far-reaching signal in that sense, as it should do.
“We have had proposals on the table for months that say employment, growth, well-being and equality have to be the priorities.
“Europe cannot only take care of the banks. We are stabilising them and will continue to do so, but we also have to look after our citizens.”
Gentiloni was meeting Saturday with his counterparts from Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – fellow EU founding members – for talks on the implications of the Brexit vote.
Matthew Holehouse, Brussels Correspondent
Confident Corbyn says he would stand again as a leadership candidate
Asked if he would stand again if a leadership contest is held, Jeremy Corbyn said “yes”.
That will be worrisome to the Labour MPs who are hoping to get rid of him because they know he commands huge support from Labour’s members and activists and would easily win any contest.
Mr Corbyn’s speech this morning saw him return to his home territory – he looks comfortable and hardly look at his notes. That confidence will be a blow to those hoping to unseat him as leader next week.
Nicola Sturgeon has just declared that a second independence referendum is now “very much on the table”.
She said her Cabinet had met this morning and it is “determined to act decisively but in a way that builds unity across Scotland about the way forward”.
In order to deliver a referendum “steps will now be taken” to put the necessary legislation in place to make it a reality.
Sturgeon: Second independence referendum ‘very much on the table’