750-2019-August 31 – Two world leaders, two chronic liars and two of Canada’s biggest trading
partners demand strong, defensives leadership in Canada...
At the time of Confederation in 1867, the United Kingdom was Canada's largest trading partner, reflecting
the close historical, cultural and institutional ties within the British Empire. Over time, more of Canada's
trade was done with the United States. The 1891 and 1911 Canadian elections were fought partly over
the issue of closer trade relationships with the British. Following the U.S. Civil War, the United States
emerged as Canada's largest trading partner. When the United Kingdom joined the European Union in
1973, the Canadian idea of having the UK as a US trade alternative was no longer viable.
Canada and the United States signed a Free Trade Agreement in 1988. Mexico was added in 1994 under
the North American Free Trade Ageeemnen (NAFTA). Since then, the United States dominated Canadian
trade. Today, the UK is our 5th largest trading partner behind the US, the EU, China and Mexico.
Boris Johnson, the new Prime Minister of Britain has clearly aligned himself with Donald Trump, President
of the United States in his view of democracy: the notion that laws and conventions are made to be
broken, that strong leaders are above the law and leadership is best defined by dictatorship. Both men
are chronic liars. Both men are convinced they know better than the people they govern.
Trump wants to build a wall across the Mexican border and have Mexicans pay for it. He’s determined to
make that happen, even if he has to break the law to make it a reality. Boris Johnson wants to exit the
European Union, no matter what the cost, who gets hurt, deal or no deal. Both men lead what used to be
the most respected democracies in the world. Trump has shattered the US’s international reputation and
Johnson seems determined to do the same for the UK.
Earlier this week, Boris Johnson asked Queen Elizabeth II to prorogue parliament, just weeks before the
Brexit deadline. The Queen approved the request just days before Parliamentarians return from summer
recess. The suspension of Parliament will shorten the amount of time Members of Parliament have to
block a no-deal Brexit. Johnson’s actions are technically legal, but they stretch the conventions of the
constitution to their limits. He is too weak to carry Parliament in a vote, so he means to silence it.
Boris Johnson is determined to lead Britain out of the European Union on October 31st with or without a
deal. He trumped parliamentarians by announcing his suspension of parliament, from September 11th to
October 14th, when the Queen’s Speech from the Throne will start a new session. A majority of British
MPs want to stop a “no-deal” Brexit and opposition parties have agreed they will try to hijack Parliament’s
agenda to pass a law calling for an extension of the Brexit deadline. A nearly five week suspension of
Parliaments would be the longest suspension prior to a British Throne Speech since 1945.
The resignation of Ruth Davidson leader of the Scottish Conservatives who had been touted as a future
prime minister, along with another senior Conservative in the House of Lords, is a sign of rising worry
within Johnson’s caucus that the move to suspend Parliament was sidelining Britain’s elected
representatives during one of its biggest political crises in generations.
W.E. (Bill) Belliveau
Brexiteers dismiss this as fear-mongering like the prophecies of doom before the June 2016 referendum
on Brexit which turned out to be too gloomy. They concede that there could be bumps in the road but they
also claim that a “no-dea”l would end uncertainty for businesses, be harmoniously managed by all sides
and lead quickly to a new free-trade deal with the EU.
Opposition commentators speculate that the chaos around a “no-deal” would in fact maximize uncertainty
for businesses. Far from being harmonious, it would more likely be acrimonious, especially since Johnson
says he would not pay the full $48 billion Brexit exit bill agreed to by former Prime Minister Theresa May.
The EU is likely to insist on payment of the bill, protection of EU citizens’ rights and the Irish backstop.
Johnson says preparations for immediate disruption are “colossal and extensive and fantastic”. Yet civil
servants expect shortages of fresh food, medicine and petrol, and a “meltdown” at ports. The
government’s own analysis suggests that no-deal would make the economy 9% smaller after 15 years
than if Britain had remained in the EU.
Some diplomats say they are increasingly convinced Johnson is a brutally ruthless tactician who would
stop at little in a risky gambit to force both Europe and his own rebellious lawmakers into a compromise.
Donald Trump has become one of his biggest cheerleaders. “Johnson is often compared to Trump. He
isn’t far off from Machiavelli,” read one editorial in Le Figaro, a newspaper in France.
A key part of the Brexit negotiations has been the border that separates Northern Ireland and the
Republic of Ireland. The border is a matter of political, security and diplomatic sensitivity. The UK and the
EU had previously agreed that whatever happens as a result of Brexit, there should be no new physical
borders, checks or infrastructure between Northern Ireland and the Repubic of Ireland. The Republic of
Ireland is a completely separate country and no longer has any formal bond to the UK while Northern
Ireland is still a part of the United Kingdom with England, Scotland and Wales.
Today, goods and services are traded between the two jurisdictions with few restrictions. That is because
the UK and Ireland are part of the EU's single market and customs union, so products do not need to be
inspected for customs or standards but, post Brexit, all that could change - the two parts of Ireland could
be in different customs and regulatory territories, requiring products to be checked at the border.
In that event, the backstop would kick in. It would see Northern Ireland aligned to some rules of the EU
single market. Goods coming into Northern Ireland from elsewhere in the UK would need to be checked
to see if they meet EU standards. It would also involve a temporary single customs regime, effectively
keeping the whole of the UK in the EU customs union. Some fear that the backstop could be used to
permanently trap the UK in the EU customs union, preventing the country from striking its own trade
deals. If a post-Brexit trade agreement cannot be reached, it appears the UK would have "no
internationally lawful means" of leaving the backstop without EU agreement.
W.E. (Bill) Belliveau is a Shediac resident and business consultant. He can be contacted at