The world beyond the Mediterranean: CANZUK | Emma McCaul with Calvin Robinson
After decades of Australia feeling like a rather pesky, unbecoming country cousin to the more sophisticated Euro-centred UK, the land Down Under has suddenly found itself once again at the front of the Heathrow queue. With little to no bias whatsoever, it is my opinion that this shift has happened not a moment too soon; nothing could serve a post-Brexit world better than for the UK to reforge it’s natural and historical ties with the Commonwealth nations.
Note the phrase ‘post-Brexit world’, not ‘post-Brexit UK’ or ‘post-Brexit Europe’, for indeed there is a long forgotten big, wide world out there for both the UK and Europe to re-familiarise themselves with. For far too long, EU countries have been obsessed with, well, EU countries. Commonwealth nations, Asia, even the mighty USA have been viewed by a pro-EU UK press as somewhat backward and behind the times. Whether it be Italian kitchen tops or Parisian climate agreements, the mainstream media would have us believe that there was nothing that came out of Europe that wasn’t ‘par excellence’
Yes, Australia did manage to get its voice heard in Eurovision, but to use our local slang, that felt like rather a kick in the guts for a first world nation that got through the GFC relativity scot free. Australia never got the international recognition it deserved for its standout performance during the GFC. Put simply, we aced it mates. With our highlights including holding onto our AAA credit ratings with all three global ratings agencies and, remarkably, not losing a single financial institution. The announcement of the historical free trade agreement between Australia and the UK on June 15, 2021 sent the EU a clear message; hold your horses mate, there is a world beyond the Mediterranean.
British GB News Conservative commentator Calvin Robinson writes, “I’m a big fan of the CANZUK movement. I think we’ve neglected the Commonwealth, in general, over the past few decades, because of our focus on the European Union, and now that we’re out of the EU it’s time for us to rebuild that strong Union of countries who chose to remain linked to Great Britain after the Fall of the Empire.”
First proposed in 1967 by William David McIntyre, CANZUK is a proposed alliance between Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom to increase trade, military co-operation and foreigner policy collaboration between member states. In 2015, James Skinner founded CANZUK International, which today remains dedicated to advocating for the proposed bloc, suggesting it would take a position as a third pillar in the West – alongside the United State and EU. CANZUK has received enthusiasm from British conservative politicians and commentators and is a natural source for trade and other associations. The proposed CANZUK member states are already part of the “Five Eyes Network”, an Anglophone intelligence network which includes the United States. Commonality of language, liberal democratic values and potential diplomatic power are attractions leading to adhesion to CANZUK.
“We have such strong joint histories, such strong combined histories together that it would be a shame to let that fall apart,” says Robinson. Shared histories and cultures aside, CANZUK makes sense for economic reasons. While the EU seems perched on a perpetual economic precipice, Australia is a beacon of stable financial functioning and growth. In Robinson’s words “It’s such a good idea to use the Commonwealth as not just a tool for sports and a kind of camaraderie, but also for creating strong economic trade deals and partnerships.”
The EU became a straitjacket for the UK by limiting the way in which the UK could forge trade alliances with countries outside Europe. It imposed a parochial view of trade that viewed old trading partners as relics of a former age, not quite up to the sophisticated needs of the EU bloc. That countries outside were in fact thriving, while the EU was literally tying itself up in knots, obsessed with the merits or otherwise of odd-shaped bananas. Indeed, it is a testament to the capacity of cumbersome bureaucracies to torpedo innovation and national interest. Stultifying regulations that serve no purpose other than virtue signalling are a disincentive to the smooth conduct of trade between countries. If the UK wants good lamb, beef, wool and other products, there are plenty of places beyond Brindisi to supply them. Our Australian wine is first class.
CANZUK is a natural alliance between countries based on a shared language, culture and values, which is not to overlook the unique characteristics of each country. Their membership of the Commonwealth is further impetus to develop mutual ties. The Pacific region has often taken second place to Eurocentric concerns, but it should not be forgotten that Britain’s greatest military defeat took place not in Europe, but in Singapore. The importance of understanding the perspectives of countries in the region is imperative for future security. The tragedy of Afghanistan has taught that.
CANZUK offers the chance for nations with natural connections with each other to develop mutually beneficial relationships in so many areas. We must grasp the promise of those affiliations and let the Northern and Southern hemispheres inform each other.
The world has changed; looking to old friends makes sense.