Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Derek Burney was Canada's ambassador to the United States from 1989-1993. Fen Osler Hampson is a distinguished fellow and director of Global Security at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Chancellor's Professor at Carleton University.

Britain's Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and the proponents of the Vote Leave campaign are looking more and more like the proverbial dog who caught the car. They clearly had done little planning on what to do if they won. Many of the promises they made in the course of the campaign look increasingly hollow. Mr. Johnson has now decided that he is not up to the challenge of managing the fallout, while Mr. Farage has resigned as UKIP leader saying, "I want my life back."

The doomsday merchants were initially in full throttle. The headlines were dire. Markets swooned; currencies sagged and the siren song of separation began to ring in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where voters strongly favoured Remain.

Story continues below advertisement

What is clear is that a referendum offering a binary choice on a complex issue risks allowing emotion to trump reason. The allure of seemingly cost-free change with enhanced "sovereignty" ultimately held greater appeal than a defence of the status quo.

As the initial aftershock from the referendum abates, and with Britain's political scene in a state of shambles, it is time for all affected parties to take a deep breath, fasten the seat belts and prepare for a bumpy interval that could last for more than two years.

Patience and sober heads must now prevail. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger has counselled sagely that the Leave vote should serve as "a catharsis," one that enables Britain and the European Union to "address its problems on immigration and other issues head on." It is not, he contended a time for "anguish or recrimination," but rather one in which challenges should be met with "a common act of imagination." Nor is it the time to act rashly by pushing Britain out the door as quickly as possible, as some European leaders now urge.

As cooler heads emerge, led notably by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, there will need to be a concerted effort to ensure that pragmatic arrangements are negotiated to preserve both the remaining unity of the EU and the mutually advantageous commercial and investment relations between Britain and the EU. The EU holds many of the negotiating cards and Ms. Merkel has already warned that Britain cannot expect to cherry-pick the benefits while opting out of the responsibilities, notably the free movement of people across borders. However, Britain, which trades more with the rest of the world than it does with Europe, also has leverage. And whatever happens, London will remain a global financial hub because of the size of its market and infrastructure.

With primary attention being given to economic relations between Britain and the EU, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada risks becoming an orphan. Our government must make ratification by the EU a top priority looking in the first instance to Ms. Merkel to act as the driving force for action by each EU member state before CETA is drowned by other priorities.

Parenthetically, as Britain was Canada's top trade and investment partner in the EU, we should offer to preserve the elements of CETA already negotiated with Britain in a separate bilateral pact when the time is ripe. Britain will have its hands full having to contemplate negotiating more than 50 bilateral trade pacts over and above what it hopes to conclude with the EU and has few trade hands able to negotiate. So it would be prudent for Canada to take the lead on such an initiative. Any semblance of stability or normalcy can only help.

Beyond economics, security is certain to be the focus for the NATO Summit in Warsaw later this week. This will provide an additional opportunity for engagement, not only for Britain with the EU but also with both transatlantic partners – the U.S. and Canada.

Story continues below advertisement

The political vacuum in today's Britain and the soon to be vacuum looming in Washington will give Russian President Vladimir Putin new room for adventure in Russia's "near abroad." It will be incumbent on NATO to galvanize at the summit solidarity and commitments that will forestall new Russian manifestations of destiny.

Canada's offer of troops to be stationed in Latvia is a welcome and tangible contribution to the defence of the vulnerable Baltic states.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies