Politics

Stephen Harper offers help on Brexit, but staying 'neutral' in U.K. Tory race

Former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper says he's willing to help the next British prime minister negotiate a divorce deal with the European Union — but he's not taking sides in the race to decide who that is.

Former Canadian PM says he's 'willing to assist' next U.K. Tory leader on trade matters

Former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper says he's willing to help the next British prime minister negotiate a divorce deal with the European Union — but he's not taking sides in the race to decide who that is. (The Canadian Press)

Former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper says he's willing to help the next British prime minister negotiate a divorce deal with the European Union — but he's not taking sides in the race to decide who that is.

Harper tweeted Saturday night that he's "willing to assist whoever serves as the next leader of the U.K. Conservative Party on trade matters, should they wish."

But as the current chair of the International Democrat Union, an alliance of conservative-leaning political parties from across the globe, Harper says he must remain "neutral in all member party leadership races."

He was responding to a report in The Sunday Times newspaper that said British Conservative leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt had "drafted in two senior Canadian politicians" to help negotiate a Brexit deal.

The Sunday Times reports that Hunt — one of just two remaining candidates to replace Theresa May as party leader and prime minister — has recruited Harper and former Conservative MP Rona Ambrose.

Hunt tells the newspaper he's intent on securing a so-called "Canada-plus" trade deal with the EU, based on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement primarily negotiated by Harper's government.

Ambrose expressed her support for Hunt as leader in a statement on Saturday.

"Secretary Hunt and I got to know each other in our time as health ministers for our respective countries. He is an exceptional leader and a great friend to Canada," Ambrose said. 

"We have spoken about the EU-Canada trade agreement and the potential for similar benefits to a U.K.-EU agreement. We have also spoken about the NAFTA renegotiations."

Ambrose said she isn't working in any formal capacity with Hunt, but they have been chatting informally.

Harper did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

With files from CBC News

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