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Post-Brexit UK seeks closer ties with Canada

OTTAWA – Britain wants to build closer ties with Canada as it reshapes its foreign policy following its exit from the European Union, but London also wants Ottawa to increase defense spending.

“Democracies must work together and outmaneuver countries that try to destabilize the world order,” British High Commissioner to Canada Susanna Koshko said in an interview.

The UK last month updated its national security and foreign policies following the uncertainty caused by Brexit and the chaotic leadership of Prime Ministers Liz Truss and Boris Johnson.

The new plan sets out the UK’s priorities until 2030, including boosting ties with Canada on a range of topics from artificial intelligence to sanctions.

Accelerating scientific research and working on critical mineral supply chains will be a key goal, according to Ms. Koshko.

This means joining AI projects and sharing recycling expertise. It also means working together to get the minerals needed for electric vehicles.

“Canada has a lot of these deposits. We have the City of London who know how to fund these types of initiatives. There’s an opportunity there,” she said.

In March, the UK government hosted a delegation of Métis and First Nations experts in environmental management to help shape the London Approach to an Environmental and Social Governance Framework that guides investments in projects aimed at achieving carbon neutrality.

Beyond science, Koshko says Britain wants to be a champion of countries embracing democracy as an alternative to growing authoritarianism.

The UK strategy identifies Canada as a partner that will “resist economic coercion” through free trade and fair competition.

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It also says Britain’s “Indo-Pacific transition” is consistent with the strategy for the region unveiled by Canada last November.

Ottawa seeks to limit cooperation with Beijing and build relationships with other countries to balance China’s growing influence.

China is one of the growing reasons Britain is on track to increase military spending above the 2% GDP target set for NATO members.

Britain has generally stuck to the minimum, but now plans to hit 2.5%. The additional spending will be part of the replacement of equipment sent to Ukraine and a military agreement known as AUKUS with Australia and the United States.

Canada hasn’t hit the 2% minimum since the 1980s, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada will never meet that target, according to a recent media leak. This question continues to irritate the Allies, including Great Britain.

“We have always been clear that NATO is critical to all of our collective security, and we are clear that we will encourage all countries to meet their spending obligations,” Koshko said.