Canada’s Morneau Wants U.K. Trade Deal ‘Rapidly’ After Brexit

  • Sees place for talks about financial services in new agreement
  • Says EU-Canada CETA deal a ‘reasonable basis’ for U.K. deal

Bill Morneau.

Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg

Canada wants to strike a trade deal with the U.K. very soon after Britain has left the European Union, and financial services will be part of the discussion, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said on Friday.

While dialogue with British officials will continue during the U.K.’s two years of talks to extricate itself from the 28-nation bloc, Canada will be “respectful” of the Brexit process, Morneau said at an event in London organized by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum. Under EU rules, Britain isn’t allowed to negotiate its own trade deals while still a member of the bloc.

Morneau’s comments will be a boost to Prime Minister Theresa May and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who are trying to show that Britain remains attractive to businesses even as it withdraws from the world’s biggest trading bloc. Fox has portrayed Britain as a champion of free trade in an era where protectionism is creeping back around the world.

Asked how quickly an agreement between Canada and the U.K. could happen, Morneau said: “I just can’t tell you what ‘rapidly’ is because there are too many things that I don’t know” about the shape of the eventual U.K.-EU deal.

The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, would be a “reasonable basis” for a starting point on any new trade deal with Britain, Morneau said.

Canada has about C$35 billion ($26.2 billion) of pension funds invested in Britain, some 1,100 Canadian companies have investments in the U.K. and they will “most certainly” still consider Britain an attractive place to invest post-Brexit, he said.

Morneau said that while many Canadian companies that use the U.K. as a base to do business in the EU will find that “the opportunities will be equally as good as they are today” after Brexit, “there could be some potential business sectors that feel that that’s no longer the perfect business strategy.”

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