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How Would CANZUK Free Movement Differ From The EU?

As talk surrounding freedom of movement between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom begins to resonate with senior government officials and diplomats, there is no doubt that such protocols would be wholly (or partially) based on those of the European Union.

CANZUK free movement would hold similarities and differences to EU free movement (photo: Getty images)

Written by James Skinner

James is the founder & chief executive of CANZUK International in Vancouver, Canada


All members of the European community are bound by Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. This means that each citizen is afforded the right to look for a job in any of the member states, work there without needing a work permit, reside there for that purpose, stay there even after employment has finished, and enjoy equal treatment with nationals in access to employment, working conditions and all other social and tax advantages.

These would undoubtedly be the founding principles of any future free movement agreement between the CANZUK countries, but one must always err on the side of caution with their implementation. Where freedom of movement between European countries has provided great benefits in terms of aiding the economy, minimising labour shortages and promoting international relations, it has also caused particular strains in terms of differing cultures, language barriers and the persistence of European federalists to unite the continent under a “one nation Europe”; a factor which largely contributed to the “Brexit” referendum in June 2016.

So is it possible for a CANZUK migration agreement to adopt the benefits of free movement while also negating the consequences of open borders as seen throughout the EU? Winston Churchill once said that “those who forget the past are condemned to relive it”, and making the same errors as the European Union would not only prove unprogressive, but could even slow down/halt all negotiations towards an open, transparent border arrangement between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

One of the main obstacles facing the European Union is linguistic diversity. As the British public opened their borders in 1973 to native German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Bulgarian, Estonian, Greek and Romanian speakers (just to name a few) a strain was always going to be present regarding assimilation and cultural relations. With an influx of European citizens crossing the UK’s borders from a variety of backgrounds (and with a variety of languages), many within British society became concerned regarding the loss of national identity, and no where saw this effect more than primary/elementary schools.

In Gascoigne primary school in Barking, East London, nine out of ten pupils spoke English as their first language in 1999. Today, that figure has fallen to one out of ten, with over 60 languages now spoken at the school (most of which come from the European mainland).

However, the CANZUK countries are fortunate enough for linguistic and cultural issues to not be a cause for concern (at least to the degree that we see within the European Union). Of course, multiple languages are spoken across the four nations, including English, Québécois French, Māori, Welsh, Gaelic and numerous Australian aboriginal languages, but the vast majority of citizens from these countries either speak English natively, or speak it with professional fluency as a second language. Should our borders open between each other in the near future, the issues of non-English speaking citizens emigrating to, and assimilating into, English speaking societies will be practically non-existent.

In addition, it’s no secret that certain statesmen within the European Union also believe in the ideology of a federalist Europe…an ideology that has been advocated since the days of the European Economic Community (EEC). Since the 1960’s, the European movement has advanced from being a collection of sovereign nations collaborating under trade agreements, to 28 member states united under one European parliament, one central bank and one common currency. Not only has this caused deep concern for many European citizens skeptical of a “United States of Europe”, but also caused many citizens to fear the loss of their national identity and heritage.

It is imperative to remember that if free movement was initiated between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, it would be absolute folly to follow in the footsteps of Europe in this way.

Each of our four countries has strong national traditions and identities, and removing those identities in the pursuit of CANZUK federalism would be a tragedy for our national honours. Just because we can advocate open borders with each other, it does not mean that we must incur the loss of national identity by forming common parliaments, currencies and financial systems. Such a concept was largely responsible for the British public voting to leave the European Union in 2016, and emulating policies of this nature would no doubt cause the downfall of a CANZUK alliance. We can, and should, open our borders yet still remain sovereign nations.

Yet opening our borders should also be advocated in contrast to the EU’s current “Schengen” migration policy; abolishing border controls and security checks between certain European nations. Numerous experts and security analysts have stated that while the Schengen area has eased travel for European citizens crossing borders, it has also eased the travel abilities of criminals and those seeking to commit terrorist activities. The CANZUK countries abolishing border controls in a Schengen-style agreement would not only emulate the problems existing in Europe today (especially with the Mediterranean migration crisis), but risk the safety and security of all CANZUK citizens.

For a logical, common-sensical approach to free movement, the CANZUK nations need look no further than the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement (TTTA) between Australia and New Zealand. This agreement permits the free movement of Australian and New Zealander citizens to each other’s countries, while also prohibiting the travel of individuals who pose a threat to public safety (including those with criminal convictions, terrorist affiliations, contagious diseases, etc). As Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom already share intelligence information through the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance, these countries can operate freedom of movement while ensuring the safety of their citizens by adopting TTTA policy. Whereas EU free movement poses national security risks with unregulated immigration, the CANZUK countries can utilise a tried and tested method and ensure public safety and national security.

Of course, looking at EU free movement as a whole, some policies are to be emulated and some are to be avoided. However, when we consider that freedom of movement has been successfully implemented between 28 European nations, with over 500 million citizens, multiple languages and different cultures, it is not only likely that free movement can exist between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, it is definite. We share the same Sovereign, the same native language, the same common-law legal system, the same Westminster style parliamentary system, the same respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and the same western values.

It is therefore hard to imagine why free movement between the CANZUK countries could not (and should not) exist, and by avoiding the mistakes of certain EU migration policies, and adopting the benefits of the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement, we can develop a migration policy that utilises common sense, progressiveness and security for all citizens of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

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