Britain’s envoy to Canada says she’s personally sad about her country’s decision to leave the European Union.
But at the same time, High Commissioner Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque said she’s professionally excited by the possibility of being at the forefront of deeper foreign policy engagement with allies such as Canada now that her country doesn’t have to leave some of that work to the EU.
Britain’s Brexit divorce from the EU after a 47-year partnership formally ended on Friday, sparking a range of emotions, and Ms. le Jeune d’Allegeershecque’s response personified a particularly broad spectrum.
“Personally, I feel quite sad. This has been part of my life for almost as long as I’ve been alive. I’m married to a fellow European. I have two children who have joint nationality with another EU member state. So personally, I’m quite sad about it,” the 56-year-old said during an interview.
“I’m still a European and I will remain a European. We’re not part of the EU, but that doesn’t mean we’re not European anymore.”
She and her Belgian husband have been married for 29 years.
“But professionally, I find it quite an exciting moment because I do think it’s a time where the opportunities for us as diplomats and us as the U.K. are enormous. It’s quite an exciting prospect to be involved in something as revolutionary, if you like, as this is to us.”
That includes deeper engagement with Canada on international trade issues, now that Britain no longer cedes responsibility for that to the European Commission in Brussels.
Britain wants to join the Canada-led initiative to reform the World Trade Organization, and it wants to learn more about Canada’s legislation, known as the Magnitsky Act, that allows it to impose sanctions on human-rights abusers.
A properly functioning WTO is an important part Britain’s “vision of a liberal free-trading world,” she said.
The fact that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has visited Canada twice in the past six months should be taken as a sign of the value Britain places on its relationship with Canada, she said.
“He is looking very closely at Canada’s Magnitsky legislation as a model for what he wants to achieve.”
Britain also wants to move forward with its co-operation with Canada on protecting media freedom after playing host to a joint conference last year in London, she said.