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The Post-Brexit World Of CANZUK – OpEd

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It did not take long for “Brexit”, a portmanteau term invented in 2012, to become common usage the world over.  Since then a new expression has been bidding for its place in the sun – CANZUK. 

CANZUK is an acronym formed from the initial letters of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom – and it emerged following a bout of vigorous activity by a body founded in Canada in 2014 called the Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organization (CFMO).   It was set up to expand the historical connections between the citizens of those four countries by creating a sort of travel-free alliance between them, thus encouraging their governments to strengthen and expand economic, political, trade, investment, military and diplomatic relationships.

The imminent departure of the UK from the European Union spawned an off-shoot in the shape of CANZUK.  Eminent British historian, Professor Andrew Roberts believes that the CANZUK countries should form “a new federation based upon free trade, free movement of peoples, mutual defense, and a limited but effective confederal political structure.”  He points out that were CANZUK to become a union, “it would immediately become one of the global great powers alongside America, the EU and China. It would be easily the largest country on the planet, have a combined population of 129 million, the third biggest economy and the third biggest defense budget.”  

In favor of the argument, he points out that the CANZUK countries already have a common head of state in the British monarch, a majority language, legal systems based on Magna Cara and the common law, Westminster parliamentary tradition, and a long history of working together. All they lack is geographical proximity, which is becoming less and less important in the modern world. 

Momentum towards creating such an entity is mounting.  CANZUK launched a petition on its website urging the UK government to establish free movement and trade agreements with Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  The rules governing petitions to the British parliament are detailed, but any that reach 100,000 signatures are almost always debated. The CANZUK petition has so far  attracted more than 310,000 signatures.  

In the meantime the CANZUK dream is taking shape.  While the UK is readying itself to leave the EU on December 31, it is negotiating a comprehensive deal with Australia to include tariff reductions and labor mobility.  UK minister Liz Truss said: “Both countries are committed to removing trade barriers and creating new opportunities for business, and believe a deep and dynamic agreement can send a clear signal to the world that both the UK and Australia are prepared to fight protectionism and advance free and fair trade.”

Leaked reports indicate that the UK-Australia trade deal will probably allow young Australians to live in the UK for more than two years, with a similar extension for Britons going to Australia. Enhanced freedom of movement was said to be a high priority for the Australian government.  

Meanwhile the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, announced on October 29 that the Canadian government is likely to conclude a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK in the coming weeks.  The aim is to eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers between the countries.  Trudeau said that work was already under way to ensure that an agreement is in place before the end of the year.

The four CANZUK countries could be a new, strong entity on the world scene. Professor Roberts goes so far as to believe that its emergence could bring about the fulfilment of Winston Churchill’s great dream of a Western alliance based on three separate blocs. “The first and second blocs – the USA and a United State of Europe – are already in place,” says Roberts. “Now it is time for the last – CANZUK – to retake her place as the third pillar of western civilization.”

If it succeeds, Middle East states will need to readjust their global perspective.  Many have thriving bilateral trade arrangements with the UK.  The emergence of a formal CANZUK federation will offer them the opportunity to expand trade links and develop new markets.  It is a tempting prospect.

Neville Teller

Neville Teller

Neville Teller's latest book is ""Trump and the Holy Land: 2016-2020". He has written about the Middle East for more than 30 years, has published five books on the subject, and blogs at "A Mid-East Journal". Born in London and a graduate of Oxford University, he is also a long-time dramatist, writer and abridger for BBC radio and for the UK audiobook industry. He was made an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours, 2006 "for services to broadcasting and to drama."

2 thoughts on “The Post-Brexit World Of CANZUK – OpEd

  • Avatar
    November 8, 2020 at 9:40 pm
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    If CANZUK wants the support of the 490,000 UK State Pensioners living in their countries and other countries with Frozen Pensions then they must include the restoration of parity in those pensions with current rates based pension contribution and back dated to time f start of pension. This should be a “Red Line” in future agreements.

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  • Avatar
    April 2, 2021 at 4:13 pm
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    So where would the capital of “CANZUK” be? The answer: Washington DC. Sorry kids, this ain’t 1930 anymore. Each of these countries already has strong ties with the USA (Five Eyes, anyone?) and the folks at Langley would not look too kindly at their turf or even their sight lines being hindered.

    A basic economic truth is that apart from the AUS – NZ connection, these countries have next to no trade with each other. Even after finalizing the divorce the UK remains living under the same roof with their former EU spouse, Australia & New Zealand’s economy is linked to China and the burgeoning Southeast Asia countries while Canada is forever fused at the hips to the US.

    From a political perspective the establishment of a CANZUK federation of any sort would require some measure of acqueiscing sovereignty. Excuse me, but wasn’t Brexit all about Britain wanting that back? Canada’s entire history and existence has hinged on growing its sovereignty, Australia and New Zealand have only recently emerged onto the world stage as significant players. Would these old realms of the Empire give all that up just help the struggling POMs? Perhaps on paper the three countries still tug at the apron strings of the monarch in Windsor but there is no longer any qualitative tie.

    That comes before confronting another implacable obstacle. The last thing that Francophone interests in Canada would accept is a further dimunition of their status within an Anglo centric consortium. CANZUK is political poison in Quebec.

    The USA may be sclerotic, rife with tribal politics, awash in violence and burdened with massive inequalities. It may be a Third World country in many respects but if so it is the richest Third World country and will be so for some time. At the top level Silicon Valley and Cambridge, Massachusetts remain the fonts of innovation. Note that the literature on CANZUK quotes various costs and benefits of the concept. The reference currency is not the Loonie or the Aussie dollar or even the Renminbi or Euro–it’s the Greenback. The CANZUK fantasy won’t alter that one bit. I’m reminded that back in the late 90s or early 00s, Jean Chretien called for a common North American currency and was universally met with a response, “we already have one.”

    Sure, there is always room for a better exchange of students and workers between these countries, but that can be done at an administrative level without a massive federal level overhaul.

    CANZUK may make for a fun club at which to sip rye, scotch and down a lager, have a friendly bash over hockey, rugby or cricket, quip about how their English is better than that of the Americans, but accomplishing anything substantive?–not a chance. We already have the Commonwealth which pretty much operates at such a superficial level. Time for a reality check–nice fantasy worthy of an academic excercise and some good term papers.

    Oh and what would that paper be titled? How about, “Make the Empire Great Again”

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