Canadian Manufacturing

Brexit and Canada: 5 things to know and a few others to think about

A long line of observers and politicians warn Britain against leaving the European Union, but there are some that think Canada and other Commonwealth economies will benefit


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CALGARY—A Calgary CEO whose oil and gas company has extensive holdings in Europe says he thinks it would be a mistake for Britain to vote to leave the European Union in the so-called “Brexit” vote on Thursday.

But Tony Marino of Vermilion Energy doesn’t think a “leave” vote would have a big impact on his company, which produces about half of its oil and gas in European countries including Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany and France.

“I think (remaining) will give Europe greater stability and it’s probably good for the overall European economy. That’s my view,” he said.

“I think, to me, it’s in the U.K.’s interest to stay in and I think it’s in Europe’s interest as well.”

Marino said some of Vermilion’s natural gas production is sold based on a British commodity index and therefore priced in pounds, but the value is based on demand for the fuel from Europe as a whole and wouldn’t likely suffer if the pound falls after the vote.

Jason Langrish, executive director of the Canada-Europe Roundtable for Business, said Canada’s energy exports will probably gain favour in the United Kingdom if it votes to leave the EU.

“If the U.K. were to leave, I could see a real appetite for sourcing Canadian energy,” he said. “I could see the U.K. being quite keen on a deepened relationship with Canada, including on the energy side of the equation.”

Langrish said Britain’s trade focus will likely shift to Canada and other Commonwealth countries if European ties are snipped and that Britain’s interest could extend to investing in liquefied natural gas exports from Canada.

Meanwhile, the British would be less likely to discriminate against Canadian energy products over environmental issues, he said, recalling the five-year battle won by Canada last year to eliminate a “dirty oil” label attached to oilsands crude under the European Union’s proposed fuel quality directive.

Langrish said the U.K. economy could be damaged if it votes to leave the EU, thus reducing overall trade, but added that a lower value for the pound could present an less expensive opportunity for Canadian companies to enter the British marketplace.

Langrish’s organization represents private sector groups that support free trade deals with Europe.

John Ries, a professor specializing in international trade at the University of British Columbia, pointed out Canada’s merchandise trade with Britain is small, with exports of about $16 billion to Britain and imports to Canada of $9 billion in 2015.

He said he didn’t expect a “leave” vote to significantly change Canada’s trade access to either Britain or Europe.

Here are five things to know about Thursday’s British referendum on its future in the European Union:

1. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney have all spoken out in favour of Britain remaining in the EU.

2. Trudeau says Britain has been a strong partner for Canada in the EU on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, and would help to drive the free trade deal to ratification by next year if it remains at the EU table.

3. Were the ‘Leave’ side to win, it would trigger an article in the European Union treaty that has never been used, but would require a long period of negotiation—years, perhaps—between the EU and Britain on the terms of departure.

4. During this negotiation period, Britain would still be subject to all EU treaties and agreements, which would including the Canada-EU trade deal. But Canada’s High Commissioner to Britain, Gordon Campbell, has questioned whether the EU would have the ability to follow through and ratify the deal if it was also faced with negotiating Britain’s exit.

5. One Canadian politician, former House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer, is swimming against the anti-Brexit tide. The Conservative MP argued in a column in the National Post newspaper that Britain would thrive outside the EU and its relations with Canada would prosper—a position that has him at odds with many world leaders and financial institutions.


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