LONDON (Reuters) — Canada's finance minister urged Britons on Tuesday to vote to stay in the European Union in next week's referendum and warned them that jobs with Canadian firms based in Britain could be at risk if the country left the bloc.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau — who was in London for meetings at the British finance ministry — said Britons who want to leave the EU, and would prefer something similar to Canada's more limited trade relationship with the bloc, were mistaken.
"The UK already has a better agreement with the European Union today," he told Reuters in a room in Canada's embassy overlooking London's Trafalgar Square.
"We see ... Great Britain staying in the European Union as the best outcome - the best outcome for Canada, the best outcome for the United Kingdom and the best outcome for the world economy," he said.
When he last visited London in April, Morneau declined to comment on the June 23 vote on EU membership, but since then other foreign leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama have urged Britain to stay in and in recent days opinion polls have put the "Out" campaign in the lead.
A trade deal between Canada and the EU is due to take effect next year. Morneau said it would be weaker without Britain and that many Canadian businesses had invested in Britain to obtain direct access to markets across the 28-nation bloc.
"For those tens of thousands of employees in those businesses, we can only say that (leaving the EU) puts them in a more vulnerable position."
Morneau did not mention by name any Canadian companies with investments in Britain but they include firms such as engineering group Bombardier and banks such as RBC and Scotiabank.
Supporters of a Brexit, as British exit from the EU is known, say Britain would remain an attractive investment destination outside the EU and that it would be in Europe's interest to maintain strong trade ties after it left the bloc.
Former London mayor Boris Johnson, a leading "Out" campaigner, has said the Canada-EU agreement could serve as a model for a future EU-UK deal.
Morneau said Canada's experience was that good trade deals could take almost 10 years to negotiate and implement.
He also stressed the historic ties between Britain and Canada, which share Queen Elizabeth as head of state.
"We have been side by side with Great Britain from the First World War to the Second World War. We have been partners, allies, friends and family - and family tells each other what is in their best interests."