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Canada, U.K. in ‘informal talks’ on trade ahead of key Brexit vote

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The United Kingdom’s high commissioner to Canada says informal talks that could lead to a U.K.-Canada free trade deal in as little as a year are underway — which could ease the economic uncertainty surrounding her country’s fraught debate over when and how it will exit the European Union.

A key vote on Brexit will be held in the British Parliament on Tuesday. High Commissioner Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque, the U.K.’s chief diplomat in Canada, said London wants to keep the disruption in its trading partnerships to a minimum.

“We can formally start negotiating a free trade deal on the day we leave the European Union,” she said in an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio’s The House.

The U.K.’s exit from the EU is set for March 29.

Behind the scenes, informal trade talks are already happening, d’Allegeershecque said.

“These informal talks underline the importance of this relationship in a trade and economic sense,” she said, citing the fact that 40 per cent of Canada’s exports to the European Union go to the U.K.

“I think we’re both acutely aware of the potential negative impact of a cliff-edge and nothing being in place to allow that [relationship] to continue.”

Canada’s no-deal Brexit safety net

A trade deal between Canada and the U.K. would only come into effect in a year’s time if Parliament votes against British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan — a vote that’s scheduled for January 15 — and goes ahead with a no-deal Brexit.

A no-deal Brexit would mean the U.K. cutting ties with the European Union overnight, without a transition period.

Great Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union at the end of March, and this New Year’s Day was filled with mixed emotions as the tumultuous Brexit situation is set to continue during the new calendar year. 2:11

If May’s deal is accepted, however, the U.K. would enter a two-year implementation period on March 29 during which the country would be free to negotiate new bilateral trade deals.

The lack of clarity on the Brexit path can be frustrating for Canadians with business interests in the U.K., d’Allegeershecque acknowledged.

“It’s not easy,” she said. “When people ask me what’s going on, at the moment it’s very difficult to predict what’s going to happen.

“The difficulty, of course, is that many Canadian businesses use the U.K. as a way into the rest of the European Union, and it’s that uncertainty that is very difficult for companies to deal with.”

Although Prime Minister May has said that a no-deal Brexit would be “the worst outcome,” the government is preparing for that possibility, d’Allegeershecque said.

“We’re working very hard with the Canadian government and ministries to put in place a sort of safety net in the event of a no-deal Brexit, so that business can continue unaffected.”

That safety net would cover things like air travel between Canada and the U.K. and the transition of CETA, the trade deal between Canada and the EU that will remain in place for the U.K. while it negotiates Brexit, she said.

Co-operating on China

While Canada’s future trading relationship with the U.K. is still up in the air, d’Allegeershecque offered clarity on one issue: the U.K.’s support for Canada in its current dispute with China over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou and the detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

“Our support for Canada and our concerns about the reciprocal action in China is pinned on the principle of upholding the rule of law,” she told the CBC’s Chris Hall.

“Obviously there are consequences to that, but the U.K. has never held back from calling out unacceptable behaviour.”

In December, the U.K. joined the U.S. in condemning China for an alleged series of cyberattacks the country’s Foreign Office described as a “widespread and significant” campaign targeting intellectual property and sensitive commercial data.

D’Allegeershecque said the U.K. chose to speak out “despite the possible negative implications” for the country’s relationship with China.

Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat recently detained by China, speaks during an interview in Hong Kong March 28, 2018. (Associated Press)

“We’ve seen what China has done to Canadian citizens. There’s always a risk that any government that feels slighted or badly treated will act in a way that’s detrimental to the interests of the other country. And we have … all sorts of links that are potentially on the table if a country wanted to retaliate. But I think it shouldn’t stop us doing the right thing.”

China’s ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, suggested this week in an op-ed in the Hill Times that Canada and its Western allies — Britain included — are demonstrating “Western egotism and white supremacy” in their approaches to China.

“What they have been doing is not showing respect for the rule of law, but mocking and trampling the rule of law,” Lu wrote.

D’Allegeershecque said she doesn’t agree with the Chinese envoy.

“I think the rule of law was very clearly applied in Canada,” she said.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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5 savvy renovations to make your kitchen look like new

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(NC) The kitchen is the heart and focal point of any home. But if yours is looking a little tired, a few simple renovations can change the feel of the entire space.

Whether you’ve just moved in, have been meaning to update for years or are experiencing life changes, remember that a kitchen uplift doesn’t have to come with a huge price tag. These small-scale projects could be the change your kitchen needs:

  1. Brighten it up.Adding LED lights below your cabinets will brighten your backsplash and counter and provide a warm glow. Place your favourite containers below to act as focal points – those copper canisters that are hiding under the island and the marble coasters you couldn’t resist can now all be on display.
  2. Swap the old with the new.The backsplash is the first thing you see, so replacing it can be enough to give the space a whole new look. Try a unique shape or colour to change things up, like turquoise or patterned tiles, hexagon-shaped tiles or even a full slab of stainless steel.
  3. Rework what you have.People often think new cabinets are necessary for a kitchen reno, but a lot can be done with what you’ve got. Repainting the cabinets and switching out the knobs to chic new handles will do wonders for a makeover.
  4. Don’t hide away.Try adding some open shelving in an unused spot, such as above the sink or window, or next to the cabinets. Display your most beautiful dishes and add some decorative pieces to give the space a modern, airy feel.
  5. Add new materials into the mix.Changing the island to a butcher-block counter adds warmth and practicality.

Taking on a renovation can often feel overwhelming. But if you talk to your contractor about budgeting and spreading out payments through services like The Home Depot Project Loan, it can be easier than you think. The service allows you to finance any home projects, big or small and is available at locations across Canada.

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How to afford a home renovation that fits your life

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(NC) Changing seasons always bring about the desire to update our living spaces. But your life stage and budget can influence what kind of upgrades you can make. Here are some tips to get you started.

Assess the investment. The first step is to gauge how much value your investment will bring, whether you’re looking to sell or grow into a family home. A common misconception among home owners is that all renovations will increase a home’s value; unfortunately, this is not always the case. It’s always a good idea to strategically renovate the space to fit your life plan and goals.

Plan for both long- and short-term value. As a homeowner, it is important to assess what kind of value items can contribute to your life plan. Searching for products that are energy efficient, like an eco-friendly washing machine or water filtration system, can help you save on your monthly bills. A long-term investment, such as hardwood floors or bathroom tiles, can spruce up a living space for years to come. While sometimes this require a larger budget, the project can be both appealing to future buyers and stand the test of time in a family home.

Create a renovation budget. Once you have a clear plan, you’ll need to create a budget to align with your financial goals. Always ensure your budget includes any interest you’ll be paying. Ask multiple sources for competitive quotes.

Use a payment plan. For those high-ticket investment items, consider using a payment plan. Payment solutions such as The Home Depot Project Loan can help with bigger renovations. This allows you to stick to your budgeting goals while using a flexible payment plan to make larger purchases more accessible.

Use DIY to offset costs. In addition to using a payment plan, taking on a few safe and simple renovation projects yourself is an easy way to offset renovation costs. Your local hardware store can help source materials and provide helpful tips to make those do-it-yourself projects, such as refinishing cabinets or sanding old hardwood floors, a breeze.

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