Writing for The Telegraph, Jonathan Saxty explains how the recent election of President-Elect Joe Biden confirms the need for Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to move towards a CANZUK alliance.
Barring a breakthrough legal challenge, it looks as though the sun is setting on President Trump’s time in the White House.
With the announced victory of Joe Biden as winner of the presidential election, much has been made of the President-elect’s view of Britain and Brexit, particularly regarding Northern Ireland.
Mr. Biden previously tweeted: “Any trade deal between the US and the UK must be contingent upon a respect for the Good Friday Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border.”
“It is good to be here to give an update on our trade negotiations as we continue our journey as an independent trading nation,” said Truss. “This government is determined to deliver tangible economic value for communities across the entire country through new and enhanced trading relationships. We will also make sure that our trade is values driven and presents the best of Britain to the world.”
Meanwhile, the former Vice President has signaled his commitment to cutting the US defence budget. His running mate, Kamala Harris, claimed to “unequivocally agree” with the goal of doing so, in order to “redirect funding to communities in need”, although she did vote against cutting it by 10 per cent.
Nevertheless, these factors alone necessitate fresh thinking in Downing Street.
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Frankly, whoever won the election, the US was likely to continue to show less willingness to unilaterally carry the Western alliance. Nor perhaps should it. Indeed, the ability of many EU countries to offer generous welfare provisions is in no small part thanks to America guaranteeing their defence. Moreover, the US has enough to deal with domestically than to be concerned with putting out fires across the planet.
In this context, typical British declinism is not the right response. America’s reappraisal of its global role is occurring at a time of resurging powers in Eurasia, as well as an EU showing a total inability to cohere and fill America’s shoes.
Meanwhile the coronavirus crisis is creating febrile conditions and new flashpoints around the planet. For post-Brexit Britain, now is surely the time to go for CANZUK, the move for a closer alliance or union between Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK.
In economic terms (given the possibility a Biden administration will be less amenable to a trade deal) and military terms (given America’s reasonable unwillingness to no longer be the world’s piggybank and policeman), CANZUK is less nostalgia and more realism. This at a time when CANZUK champion Erin O’Toole was recently elected leader of the Canadian Conservatives, and (potential US deal aside) Britain is looking to develop fresh trade deals, not least in the Commonwealth (with an Australian deal which could include improved ease of movement).
In economic terms, CANZUK represents a market of over 130-million people which, while currently smaller than the EU, has a much higher GDP per capita, far greater population and economic growth rates, more compatible economies, as well as a common language, legal system, political system and head of state. Plus, of course, geography has never mattered less – whether for industry (just look at shipping costs) or for services (including financial services and the burgeoning fintech sector).
CANZUK would be the world’s largest polity and third largest economy, and – building on the Five Eyes alliance – would offer unparalleled military reach. The US should see CANZUK as a reliable new partner in geopolitics and one which could take the burden off Washington to some extent. It is time the UK turned back to the Commonwealth.
If, as is claimed, Mr. Biden is not particularly supportive of Brexit, and the UK is indeed stranded in the mid-Atlantic, then CANZUK makes even more sense as a reorientation for 21st century Britain. Moreover, the UK is likely to get a receptive audience in the CANZUK countries, which increasingly realise they can no longer simply expect a US security guarantee as a matter of course.
As for writing the UK off, many countries – including China, Russia and Turkey – have made a geopolitical comeback after periods of geopolitical hibernation. The US rightly wants other like-minded nations to step up. CANZUK could be the answer.
Perhaps the election of Mr. Biden, hot on the heels of Brexit, was just the push the CANZUK nations needed.
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