Howard Drake is the British High Commissioner to Canada.
The outcome of the U.K. referendum on its membership in the European Union came as a surprise to many, not only in the United Kingdom but around the world. Some think that it means Britain is turning in from the world. My answer to that: Nothing could be further from the truth.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has been perfectly clear: Brexit means Brexit, and we are going to make a success of it. Britain will build a new future from a position of strength, outward facing, internationally focused, and ready to embrace the new opportunities that leaving the EU brings. Britain is committed to working with our international partners, including Canada, fully playing our part to help ensure a safer, healthier and more prosperous world.
Consider the facts. The U.K. is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, of NATO, of the G7, the G20 and the Commonwealth. It was the first member of the Group of Seven to meet the United Nations target of spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on international development. This policy, now enshrined in law alongside the U.K.'s commitment to spend 2 per cent of its income on defence, is helping to shape the world around us.
Britain, currently the fifth-largest economy in the world, was the fastest-growing economy in the G7 last year. It remains a great place to do business – that will not change. London is regarded as the world's leading financial hub and its creative and entrepreneurial spirit continues to thrive with a wealth of opportunities for our trading partners.
The U.K. has been and always will be a trading nation and our overseas partners are guaranteed a strong, business-friendly environment. While it remains a full member of the EU for now, the British government will ensure that its new relationship with the EU works for business.
In three years as High Commissioner to Canada I have been privileged to get to know this great country and its great people. I have visited all the provinces and territories, met leaders in arts, culture, politics and business, and spoken to the next generation of Canadians at schools and universities. A recurring theme everywhere is the enduring strength of the unique relationship between our two countries.
We estimate that more than 50,000 Britons work for Canadian companies in the U.K. and many more jobs are indirectly created through our trade and investment links. We are committed to promoting jobs and growth in both countries; our network of diplomatic posts across Canada in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver are hard at work every day to support these bilateral economic and political ties.
This commitment includes support for the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The U.K. has done as much as any EU member to make the deal possible. It's a good deal for Canada, for the EU, and for the U.K. while it remains a member. So we will continue to push strongly for its speedy implementation.
Britain isn't open just for business. As a tolerant and diverse country, we also welcome tourists, with open arms. A record 36 million visited last year, enjoying the historic sites, cultural centres, landmarks and attractions that can be found up and down the land. From castles to museums, beautiful beaches to idyllic countryside, iconic department stores to pulsating sporting events, there is something for every visitor to Britain.
Our education institutions are world-renowned; Britain is home to four of the world's top 10 universities. The U.K. offers foreign students a world-class education and great career prospects. In turn, students from Europe, Canada, the United States and beyond make an enormous and highly valued contribution to our educational institutions.
Regardless of the shape of the U.K.'s new relationship with the EU, Britain will continue to be a reliable ally and trusted partner for Canada, the EU and the world. We are creative, innovative and open to opportunity. With Canada and Britain side by side – allies, partners, family – we will continue to thrive and prosper.