European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso shakes hands with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to conclude a signing ceremony at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
The very future of the bloc in questionEven if the EU is able to follow through and finish its work on the agreement, the Brexit vote raises questions about the future viability of the bloc itself and therefore the trade deal, said Fen Hampson, a foreign policy expert at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont. Hampson questioned whether the narrow decision by British voters might trigger a similar "Frexit" movement in France, where there is more opposition to the EU, or in the Netherlands, as well as hastening the departure of financially battered Greece. "The real question is: does CETA have any kind of a future?" he said. "I would say CETA is probably dead."
'CETA is probably dead'The Brexit vote could represent the beginning of "a cascade of bad news for Canadian trade," Christopher Sands, director of the Centre for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, wrote in a Friday analysis. "Will the remaining European Union countries see Canadian trade as sufficiently valuable to them now to complete this agreement? How long might it take for Canada to patch together a bilateral agreement with Britain modeled on CETA?" Sands and Hampson noted that British Prime Minister David Cameron was an important ally to Canada during the CETA negotiations. The British were helpful in resolving the final roadblock in the negotiations, assuaging concerns in Germany and France over the investor settlement dispute mechanism that threatened to scuttle the deal after Canada and the EU signed an agreement in principle in 2014, said Hampson. Richard Haas, president of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, said the decision by British voters might mean the end of the American ambitions for its own free trade deal with Europe, which is in an early stage of negotiations.
Freeland's working on it"It's hard to see how the political environment in the United States becomes more conducive to trade, or to passing free trade agreements any time soon," said Haas. International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland affirmed Canada's commitment to the free trade deal with the EU. "I was in touch early this morning with the EU trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, about our commitment to CETA and to deepening our trading relationship," Freeland said in a statement. "We remain committed to growing global trade that is good for Canada's economy, good for the environment, good for labour, and good for people."
Lack of optimism in EuropeThere was a noticeable lack of optimism on the EU side. The EU embassy in Ottawa declined comment. A joint statement by the EU's main political leadership, including European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament President Martin Schulz, told Britain to move "as soon as possible, however painful that process may be" to formalize exit plans in order to minimize uncertainty. Until then, it said, Britain is bound by all EU treaties and laws.