As the UK’s exit from the European Union approaches, it is time for the British government to begin focusing on its natural allies in the world and formulate diplomatic agreements with Canada, Australia and New Zealand as soon as possible, argues Isaac Anderson.
The Brexit debate has been monopolised by the focus on what the future EU-UK relationship will be, and despite the extensive use of time and effort by MPs and Civil Servants, not much has been finalised.
Due to the possibility (and arguably the likelihood) of a No-Deal Brexit, we must examine the time we have left and see how best to use it.
The Department for International Trade (also known as the ‘No Deal Brexit Department’) has done excellent work behind the scenes to ensure that the UK has a survivable network for contingency in international trade.
Nevertheless, simply grandfathering in current EU trade relationships have many issues, and most grandfathered trade agreements will need to be replaced with renegotiated agreements. That would require time and effort by the UK’s small team of negotiators who would be overwhelmed by the sheer number of trade agreements which would need to be renegotiated, irrespective of the amount of trade conducted under those agreements or the value of the relationships.
Friends are important in many aspects of life, and the same can be applied to nations. The UK has had a wide variety of foreign campaigns over the years, and fortunately, a number of nations have continually stood with us.
In many cases, these nations can be classified as Commonwealth Realms or Commonwealth Member-States, although there are a few nations who are not. An example would be during the Falklands War: New Zealand provided a frigate, the US provided air to air missiles and oil tankers full of jet fuel, and Britain’s two traditional key South American allies, Brazil and Chile, provided various levels of assistance.
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When dealing with trade, it is important to remember that governments do not make up the majority of international trade. Such trading is performed primarily by individuals, and trade can be over-emphasised.
There have been articles written against CANZUK based on the size of trade between the four countries, as the UK trades more with the EU than with Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Yet the sheer amount of goods and services traded does not completely sum up the calculations or automatically guarantee alliances.
It has often been pointed out that if the US built its allies on the rubric of whom it traded with, China would be their No. 1 ally. For that reason, the post-Brexit UK must realise that while trade agreements are indeed key to continuing day to day business as usual, a different tool is needed for the successful long-term continuity of an island nation.
We are living in exciting times. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, there are confrontations between powers of varying strengths. For the first time since the beginning of the First World War, we see multi-sided clashes between Super, Great, and Regional powers. Indeed, power politics has returned: British Values, and indeed British security, are once again at risk globally and need to be defended, and the UK does not have enough soft or hard power to go at it alone, toe to toe, with the superpowers of the day and stand its ground.
And this is why the concept of CANZUK is crucial.
The idea of CANZUK was not invented by this or any other campaign. It was invented by diplomats at the UN, who noted that the four nations voted together on any subject as a bloc, often entirely independently. This is remarkable in the UN, where if nations vote together, it is typically because the nations are parts of an official group.
Although all CANZUK nations are part of blocs, often security blocs, they typically do not affect the nations’ vote and all four nations’ foreign policies are independently formulated.
If we consider a personal model, our friends are often those with whom we have a lot in common. Further, relationships between friends are deep and mean that agreements can typically be reached sooner than compared with a number of strangers. Therefore, the other CANZUK nations should be the UK’s natural “friends”, and it would make sense that agreements between the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand would be easier to achieve.
This has shown itself to be the case. Immediately after Brexit, Canada unilaterally offered a trade deal with the UK, the Australian Prime Minister suggested a one-page trade deal and New Zealand offered its own trade negotiators to help. This is not completely different to how other nations have responded to Brexit, but the CANZUK nations have offered the most, which makes sense, considering they are the UK’s closest friends with whom we share the most in common.
This is why the UK should concentrate most on the CANZUK nations. It will be argued that the current level of trade between the CANZ nations and the UK is low, compared to UK-EU trade. This is to be expected, due to the regulations, restrictions and internal benefits of being inside the EU’s Single Market. Before the UK joined the EU (or rather the EEC) UK-CANZ trade was high and extensive. And this is key to understanding why a CANZ-UK trade agreement would work, despite the current levels; just as French wine, lamb and butter replaced Australian wine, Kiwi butter and lamb, the reverse can happen again. The price will inevitably affect consumer purchases.
The UK needs security and trading partners around the world, and it makes sense to choose those with whom we have a strong relationship and share key geopolitical and ideological aims. Because we have such similarities, trade & security agreements will be easier to achieve, and because we have little time left, we need to focus on securing a foundation of agreements with our key CANZUK allies.
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