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The Case For & Against Free Movement With The USA

Since our establishment almost 2 years ago, we have received thousands of emails from supporters of our free movement proposals between the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Would the USA be an ideal addition to CANZUK?

Most of these emails are strictly Commonwealth related (pertaining to campaigns, media interviews and enquiries regarding the future of the CANZUK area), but some ask the common question: “Why just these four countries”?

For more information about why we have selected the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to be the ideal foundations for a free movement initiative, you can read our previous article here which explains why.

However, even though this article clarifies why Commonwealth countries such as South Africa, India, Jamaica and the Bahamas would not be ideal candidates to enter a free movement agreement with the CANZUK area, it does not clarify why countries outside of the Commonwealth would not be able to join.

It’ll probably come as no surprise that the country outside of the Commonwealth that is most frequently enquired about joining our free movement proposals is the United States of America, and in truth, it is a rational question to ask “Why not?”

Why shouldn’t the USA be invited to join a free movement initiative with Canada (its neighbor to the north), the United Kingdom (its mother country), Australia and New Zealand (its closest Pacific allies)? After all, it is one of the most economically developed countries in the world (if not the most economically developed), its majority language is English, and even though not part of the Commonwealth, they share a similar history and culture to the rest of the CANZUK area. In essence, it may be worth changing our organisation’s policy from promoting free movement with CANZUK countries to free movement with CANZUK countries plus the USA.

Then again, maybe not.

I know many American citizens would love to be part of an open border agreement with the CANZUK area (in the same way the European Union operates), but with further thought and scrutiny, this may be an idea best left alone. On paper, it seems like a wonderful way to unite with our North American counterparts and promote our Anglosphere relations, but when we factor economic and social dynamics, it could become more problematic in the long term. Here’s why:

From the statistics shown above, we can see that the USA is very similar to the average-accumulated values of the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The USA and CANZUK nations share similar populations of English speakers, rates of life expectancy and population growth rates. In certain circumstances, the USA even outperforms the CANZUK nations with a considerably higher GDP, GDP per capita and unemployment rate.

However, even though these factors deem the USA as the perfect applicant for free movement with the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, one statistic stands out that raises numerous red flags; population.

Population of USA: Over 321 million people

Compared to the CANZUK average, the United States has a population over 10 times greater with 321 million citizens. In perspective, that is a population 5 times greater than the United Kingdom’s, 9 times greater than Canada’s, 14 times greater than Australia’s and 72 times greater than New Zealand’s. Even if we only take 36% of the USA’s population (the number of Americans who own valid passports) and unreasonably presume that the other 64% will never apply for a passport, that still leaves a population of nearly 116 million people eligible to travel under free movement; almost the entire population of the CANZUK area.

Economically speaking, the risks of overpopulating a free movement area can be substantial, especially for smaller countries such as New Zealand. One of the detriments to free movement within the European Union is the concept of allowing over 508 million citizens to move freely, thereby permitting citizens to relocate without consideration of migrant influx vs. infrastructure.

For example, in 2015, the United Kingdom saw a net population increase of 184,000 people from the EU, as the UK economy was considerably stronger and more prosperous compared to other EU nations. As with all significant migrant influxes, this placed undue pressure on hospitals, schools, social security and regional employment within the UK, but if such migration flows were to occur from a highly populated nation like the USA, this could be devastating for smaller populations within the CANZUK area.

Even if just 1% of the American population decided to emigrate throughout the CANZUK area, this would equate to over 3.2 million US citizens. If said citizens were divided throughout the CANZUK area equally, that would involve over 800,000 US citizens residing in each of the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, which would no doubt place increased demand on services and infrastructure within these nations. The levels of migrant influx vs. infrastructure would not be compatible, and the free movement initiative would fail.

But population aside, the US may also have an additional problem which would prevent its unification with the CANZUK nations; history.

Downtown San Francisco (photo: Sir Francis Drake Hotel)

Similarly to Ireland’s resistance in re-joining the Commonwealth (and potentially benefiting from free movement with the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada), signing up to free movement within the CANZUK area may not be democratically supported throughout the USA. Let’s not forget that the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada each have Queen Elizabeth II as their Head of State, and considering the USA’s colonial past and proud revolutionary history against the British monarchy, any move towards unifying the USA under a “Commonwealth” freedom of movement objective could be seen by many nationalists as resorting to diplomacy “in the Queen’s name”.

At the expense of gaining benefits from free movement, would the USA be willing to reform immigration policy in conjunction with 4 Commonwealth countries, all of whom acknowledge the Queen as Head of State, and recognise that our Commonwealth ties strengthen our ability to achieve free movement? Some would be willing to leave the negatives of colonialism in the past, and promote the US passport as one to greatly benefit from free movement with the CANZUK countries. Others however, would not be so eager, and would rather distance themselves from any notion of monarchy, the United Kingdom, and indeed, the Commonwealth run by an English Queen.

It therefore seems a long shot for the United States to join a CANZUK free movement deal. Even if the US Congress were to promote its aims and attain the backing of over 321 million citizens, those citizens alone would cause significant problems for the CANZUK countries, simply because of their numbers. For a freedom of movement initiative to work, it is imperative for population numbers to be limited, otherwise economic consequences can (and will) occur.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Granted, free movement between the CANZUK nations and the USA is not a pursuit that makes economic sense, but mutual cooperation on the international stage certainly does. With the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada united under a free movement initiative, a foundation of a “super-economy” is created, capable of undertaking trade and diplomatic relations with a super-power such as that of the United States. Both entities would be able to work together for increased prosperity, increased qualities of life and increased international trade, all while working harmoniously as long standing allies and politically progressive nations.

The future may not hold free movement for the USA, but by introducing free movement between the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, there is no reason why the USA’s future cannot be prosperous by working with a CANZUK union.

James Skinner
C.F.M.O Founder & Executive Director
Vancouver, Canada