Canada is in a strong position to withstand the global market uncertainty created by Britain's vote to leave the European Union, the Liberal government says.
"We respect the choice of the British people and will remain a strong partner of the U.K. and the European Union," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters at a Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day event in Quebec City on Friday. "Our shared histories and common values make us natural trading partners and we will continue to work with both of them as we move forward with this new decision."
In a statement, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said he spoke with his Group of Seven counterparts and central bank governors, who reaffirmed their confidence in the British economy despite a dive in the value of the pound. "While some market and economic volatility can be expected, the Canadian economy is well placed and our financial institutions are well funded." Mr. Morneau said.
Canadian Chamber of Commerce president Perrin Beatty said many factors are still out of Canada's control. The Brexit decision could have significant implications on the government's work to ratify a massive free trade deal with the EU, known as the comprehensive economic and trade agreement (CETA).
Mr. Beatty said the deal is now weakened without Britain's involvement, and that Canada will have to engage the EU early to keep the bloc focused on the agreement.
Matthew Kronby, a Bennett Jones lawyer and a former Canadian trade official who helped negotiate CETA, said Canada will also have to readdress its trade agreements with Britain, which may be easier than it seems.
"It would be easier to negotiate with one country with a common legal tradition, common language, a lot of common history," Mr. Kronby said. "We've got deep trade ties already. They're our single largest trading partner within the EU."
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said in a statement that Canada must maintain strong ties with Britain while continuing to work to ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement CETA to ensure it "does not become a casualty of a period of uncertainty in Europe."
"While there are worldwide implications that will flow from the new path forward that the U.K. has chosen, for Canada it will be important for our government to maintain strong ties with the U.K. At the same time, the Liberal government must also continue to fight for the ratification of the Canada-E.U. free-trade agreement the previous government reached," Ms. Ambrose said.
Conservative MP Jason Kenney, a possible contender for leadership of the federal party, took a harder stand on the Brexit decision. In a tweet, Mr. Kenney congratulated the British people on "choosing hope over fear by embracing a confident, sovereign future, open to the world!" He also accused Mr. Trudeau of interfering in the British decision, calling it a "terrible, short-sighted gaffe."
Despite Mr. Kenney's tweets, Tory foreign affairs critic Tony Clement said that the Conservative Party has no place in saying whether Britain should have remained in the EU. Rather, he said the vote reaffirms the need for a referendum on similar national decisions in Canada, such as electoral reform.
"I support the process by which they came to a decision and in that sense, it's in marked contrast to the refusal of the Liberal Trudeau government to have a referendum on how we determine who our MPs are," Mr. Clement said in an interview. "I think it shows that the population can take an issue that is of great interest to them very seriously and can come up with a decision."
NDP foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière said in a statement that Britain must find a way to bring people together and re-engage those who "clearly feel left behind in the current system." Canada has an important role to play in reaching out and working with Britain on shared global priorities, she added.
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney also chimed in, warning that the British people will rue the day they voted to leave the EU. The former Progressive Conservative leader recently delivered a major speech in London in favour of the Remain side.
"There is a lot at stake and we'll see how it all works out over time. But the idea of saying you can all alone resist globalization and the pull of the centuries is pretty dangerous," Mr. Mulroney told The Globe and Mail. "The Leave group made some serious commitments to the people of the United Kingdom and if they can't deliver on them, they are going to have some serious trouble."
With a report from Robert Fife