Britain set to pull trigger on Brexit at end of March; CETA set to go

Brexit: March and May

The U.K. government is on schedule to trigger Article 50 by the end of March, formally signalling intention to leave the European Union. The Supreme Court ruled the government could not go ahead without Parliament’s approval, so a bill was quickly introduced, passing its first vote 498-114. All Conservatives (except one) supported and Labour was split, while Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists and the Welsh Plaid Cymru opposed. The court had also ruled approval was not required from the devolved administrations. The bill has further to go through Parliament before final vote and assent, due later this month.

The U.K. government issued a white paper outlining its approach to Brexit. The paper builds on Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech in January, in which she said the U.K. would not seek partial or associate membership, but a “new, positive and constructive partnership.” Priorities include departure from the European Court of Justice, control of immigration, maintenance of the common travel area with Ireland, protection of rights for EU nationals in the U.K. and vice versa, and free trade agreements with the EU and other countries. Responses from some European leaders suggest negotiations will be challenging, and the increased interest in upcoming Dutch and French elections is significant.

U.K. economy:
strategy and growth

The U.K. government released its plans for a national industrial strategy. In a consultation paper, Business Secretary Greg Clark said one of the key aims was to “make the U.K. one of the most competitive places in the world to start and grow a business.” The draft strategy is worth reviewing for B.C.-based businesses investing or considering investment in the U.K. The next step is for the government to receive comments on the paper by April 17.

The Bank of England further revised its growth projections for 2017 upwards, to 2% from 1.4%, keeping interest rates at 0.25%. It also expected the continuation of a weak pound eventually to fuel inflation, potentially leading to slower growth into 2018. Consumer spending remained higher than expected but households are managing their budgets through a low rate of savings.

CETA set to go

The European Parliament has approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU. PM Justin Trudeau visited Strasbourg on February 16 and spoke to the European Parliament, welcoming the agreement: “With CETA we have built something important. … Now we need to make it work.”

The Canadian House of Commons has also approved enacting legislation (Bill C-30), meaning that once the Senate has given its approval, and with some provincial implementation work, CETA should provisionally enter into force (pending final ratification by individual EU member states). The full text is here

Taste of Canada

On February 27, B.C. producers will present seafood, fresh produce, high-end niche packaged goods and wines at the Taste of Canada event in London. Delegates will showcase their produce to select representatives from the U.K. food industry interested in Canadian products, and renowned Vancouver chef Nathan Fong will be preparing dishes for the event.

B.C.’s Pocket Gamers

Eleven B.C. companies attended the Pocket Gamer Connects event in London January 16-17. Nine were from Vancouver, one from Victoria and one from Kelowna – including Greenstone Initiatives, V2 Games Inc. and The conference and trade show was attended by international industry leaders such as Google, Amazon, Sega and Disney. Over the two days, the B.C. companies connected with other attendees, potentially leading to future partnerships. 

Rupert Potter is a U.K.-based writer, speaker and diplomat who has worked in Jordan, Bahrain, Sweden and Canada. His career has included work with the U.K. government. He runs an independent consultancy.