The threat of integration into a European superstate has finally been extinguished, our membership of the European Union has ended, and the UK is once more a free and sovereign nation. We have now, for the first time in many years, a unique opportunity to forge our own future. It is time to reconnect with old friends and rekindle relationships that we have to some extent neglected.
To those readers not previously aware of the concept, CANZUK is the proposed idea of firmer ties between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK in the form of free trade, freedom of movement and cooperation on foreign affairs. The CANZUK countries together have a combined population of some 135 million and a combined GDP that would represent one of the largest in the world. These four countries already share a head of state, a language and a history so rich I couldn’t begin to detail it in an article of this size.
One of the few pro-remain arguments that held some weight during the 2016 referendum campaign was the idea that the world’s nations were agglutinating into massive power blocs. China, the USA, Africa, Europe etc. The implication of this was that if we were not part of one of these blocs, we would lose our influence as a nation, we would become an irrelevance, and worse yet, we would be vulnerable to our enemies.
Of course, the obvious rebuttal for Brexiteers was and is that no country has more friends than the UK. The special relationship between the UK and the USA is a very real thing but (as often remarked by critics) the USA is a far larger economy than the UK. Mid-sized economies such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand would make perfect partners for the UK and CANZUK would be a major player on the world stage.
An important argument for CANZUK is what it could do for the union. We find ourselves in a time when our union seems fragile. Recently in an article for this publication (available HERE), William Gould argued that if unionists were to have any hope of succeeding in maintaining the United Kingdom, we would have to concede to a ‘Confederal Settlement’. This is not a solution. To cede yet more power to devolved administrations does nothing but accelerate the destruction of the Union. It would be better to win the argument on Unionism once and for all.
It is, for example, clear that many Scots see Scotland as a junior partner in a union with England. They need to feel they are part of something bigger. CANZUK could provide great opportunities for young people throughout the UK, whether it be for study or for work, free movement between the CANZUK countries could prove mutually beneficial for all, free trade will bring the price of consumer goods down and a united front on the world stage will give the UK a stronger voice globally.
The CANZUK countries can all claim to have cultural traditions that are uniquely theirs yet at the same time sharing so much in common with each other. Our common law legal system which we value so highly has survived in these countries alongside of course the English language which is the most spoken language in all four countries. There is nothing insignificant about the history that we share.
With the pace of technological change never as evident as it is now, the significance of 5 Eyes and our collective ability to gather and share intelligence is profound. 5 Eyes is, of course, the intelligence-sharing agreement between the USA and each of the four would be CANZUK countries. This is such an example of cooperation that demonstrates what CANZUK can achieve.
We have been told by every generation of politicians since the Second World War, that our future would be with Europe, or we would have no future at all. There is now, however, another way. Our incompatibility with Europe on many issues has often been stark but CANZUK provides an opportunity for us to finally sing from the same hymn sheet as our allies.
Polls have shown popular support for CANZUK in all four countries and elected officials are beginning to give the idea the respect it merits with an All-Party Parliamentary Group on CANZUK being established last year in Westminster and some new MPs such as the new MP for Peterborough Paul Bristow mentioning CANZUK in the House of Commons. Much then to be optimistic about when it comes to our post-EU prospects; all that is required now is the political will to see it through.
Photo by Rob Mitchell on Flikr.