For a while I have been saying that the EU Leavers have no clear vision of what Out looks like. But finally, Boris has shown me what Brexit will mean. If we vote to leave on June 23rd, Britain will be more like…..Canada.
“What I think we should do is strike a new free trade deal along the lines of what Canada has just achieved. They have taken out the vast majority of the tariffs and have virtually unencumbered trade. We want a relationship based on trade and cooperation. The idea of being subject to the single judicial system is the problem.”
I have a reasonable view on this, having myself grown up in Canada. And I find it odd that Boris would pick Canada of all places to emulate in terms of how foreign trade in particular is structured. In fact, a large part of my pro-EU sentiment derives from having grown up in a country at the fag end of NAFTA, that particularly free trade agreement being something that I happen to hate with every fibre of my being.
Why do I detest a simple free trade agreement with such a level of passion? The European Union has faults, many of them in fact, but one of the things I like about it is that it is an agreement between equals. I know some Brexiteers really don’t like this element of it (feeling like Britain shouldn’t be doing deals with the likes of Portugal, for instance), but when you stop and think about it, this is the only way free trade agreements can work for every country involved – otherwise you are inevitably introducing a sort of quasi-imperialism into the equation.
If everyone agrees to the same rules, then they apply equally to everyone. NAFTA is the very antithesis of this model. Within NAFTA, The US has much more power than any of the other signatories. It changes the rules pretty much at whim, according to its needs. Internal lumber market in trouble? Slap an instant tariff on British Columbian wood coming across the 49th parallel.
Do the Canadians complain about this? All the time. But what does it matter in the end? Canada is still better off inside of NAFTA than it would be outside of it, even if leaving were a real diplomatic option, which of course, due to concerns regarding the state of the dysfunctional yet vital Canadian-American relationship, it isn’t anyhow. So the Canadian model that Boris is talking up now involves being very much dictated to by other countries all the time without a say in the matter. Which is what I thought he supposedly didn’t like about Britain being in the EU.
NAFTA always felt like something I suffered under when I lived in Canada. I couldn’t go and work in the States without it being a major hassle (actually easier to do as a Brit if I ever wanted to anyhow) as there is no freedom of movement between the countries. If you want to try and buy and sell things from or in another country as a Canadian business, it is tariff city (although if the Canadian-EU free trade deal ever actually kicks in, this should be alleviated a little. An agreement with the EU ironically doing for Canada what pathetic NAFTA never could).
I know the Brexiteers are desperate to come up with a model for leaving that sounds plausible, but he should take it from a former Canadian: the London mayor is barking up the wrong tree with this latest idea from Planet Boris.