Brexit or beef: Vote to remain may help lift ban on products British expats long for

As Britons vote on their future, and whether they’ll still be a part of the European Union after results in Thursday’s historic referendum are tallied, a Canadian importer of beloved British treats is waiting to see if a so-called Brexit will impact his business.

Whitby, Ontario’s Simply British Food offers British (and Scottish and Irish) expats a taste of home. But there are a some products from across the pond owner Paul Million says he can’t offer his customers — British meat.

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    For 20 years now, British beef and beef from other EU nations has been banned from Canada because of fears of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as Mad Cow Disease.

    Million, who moved to Canada as a child and has dual citizenship, is counting on the Canada and European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) being ratified and the ban finally being lifted. Once the deal is ratified, the Canadian ban on meat from 19 EU countries, including the U.K., will be lifted.

    “After seven bloody years, I’m hoping that this free trade agreement gets ratified with the Europeans, obviously because then that should resolve the whole nonsense with meat,” he said. “And all these products that we can’t legally get will become available to expats and/or Canadians.”

    READ MORE: Five questions about this week’s Brexit referendum

    The ban wasn’t limited to just meat, but anything with meat in it including OXO bouillon cubes, Bovril (a meat extract used in broths and seasonings), and much-loved British meat pies — favourites among his expat clientele but illegal to import.

    He believes a Brexit will cause CETA to unravel. But he’s keeping his fingers crossed that won’t happen.

    READ MORE: What’s at stake in Thursday’s Brexit referendum

    So too (figuratively) are the fingers of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he believes Britain is stronger partner if it remains in the EU (and a part of CETA).

    Trudeau’s finance minister, Bill Morneau, said he’s “anxious about the outcome and suggested thousands of jobs at Canadian companies operating in the U.K could be “vulnerable as a result of this discussion.”

    Other analysts and economists have taken a more grim outlook on the greater effects of a possible Brexit, suggesting it could affect everything from the Canadian housing market to the EU falling apart country by country, or just worldwide economic fallout.

    WATCH: Janet Yellen warns of ‘signifigant economic repercussions’ of a Brexit

    But Carleton University professor Ian Lee doesn’t subscribe to the Chicken Little-the sky is falling school of thought when it comes to the possibility of Britain leaving the EU — especially when it comes to how it could impact Canada.

    “Institutions and leadership would respond very quickly (to a vote to leave the EU) to ensure that we didn’t have long-term, perpetual chaos,” he said.

    The U.K., like Canada, is a wealthy and stable country because its legal framework and trade agreements. Lee said if Britons vote to leave governments aren’t going to just watch trade fall by the wayside.

    “I think that the cooler heads will prevail,” he told Global News. “We have the template of the CETA, we have the template of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership)… There would be great support in the U.S. Congress, great support in Canada to really move quickly on a trade deal.”

    READ MORE: Brexit: Final frantic day of campaigning ahead of EU vote

    While the U.K. is an important partner, it’s hardly Canada’s biggest trade partner. Neither is Europe, compared to the amount of trade between Canada U.S. and countries in Asia.

    “It’s hard for me to think of a scenario that Canada is going to be greatly affected,” added John Ries, of the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

    How a Brexit could really affect Canada, he said, is the period of uncertainty that would follow, leading investors and businesses to hold off on making any big spending decisions.

    Conversely, both the EU and U.K. could seek more trade with Canada if there are suddenly higher tariffs on British-European trade — currently they have no tariffs — but that would likely only be a minor boost, Ries said.

    Both Ries and Lee believe the “Remain” side will win the referendum, by at least a narrow margin.

    And shop owner Million feels the same way, hoping that after selling British goods in Canada for the past nine years, he’ll be able to bring one more taste of home into Canada.

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