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CANZUK 2020: Our Year In Review

As the new year approaches, we look back at 2020’s major accomplishments for the CANZUK campaign and what the next year holds for establishing closer diplomatic ties between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Written by James Skinner
James is the Founder & Chief Executive of CANZUK International in Toronto, Canada


It has been a difficult year for many given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but there have also been some major developments in the past 12 months for furthering ties between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom (CANZUK).

Within the first few weeks of 2020, CANZUK was already garnering support among British MPs, including Andrew Rosindell (MP for Romford), who stated in parliament that the UK must “focus on the Commonwealth, most especially Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where we must forge a much closer relationship, with the aim of creating a new CANZUK alliance”.

This sentiment was echoed by other political representatives home and abroad, with MPs calling for closer defence collaboration between CANZUK countries and Canadian politicians like Erin O’Toole promising to make CANZUK a priority. O’Toole would later go on to become the leader of the Conservative Party in Canada and continues to advocate for free movement and trade between CANZUK countries in parliament.

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The endorsements from senior political representatives continued, with former Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, endorsing closer visa and trade relations between Australia and the UK. Speaking via a live video conference, Abbott stated, “As far as Britain and Australia are concerned, there should be free movement of people, for work not welfare…a lot of great Britons were born in Australia and a lot of great Australians were born in Britain, and long may that continue to be the case.”

Abbott would later go on to become the UK government’s senior trade advisor for Brexit negotiations and continue his support for closer ties between the CANZUK countries, emphasizing in interviews that he would “look very kindly on a CANZUK partnership”.

But it wasn’t only reciprocal migration and trade which highlighted growing demand for cooperation between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In light of the rising authoritarianism from the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong, the four countries (along with the USA) collaborated in June to issue joint-statements condemning Chinese actions in the former British territory. To this day, the CANZUK countries have continued to stand with Hong Kong in protecting democracy and human rights that have been threatened by the Chinese government, and continue to develop mutual foreign policies.

Around the same time in June, there were calls in New Zealand to further ties with the United Kingdom respective of upcoming post-Brexit trade deals. Todd McClay MP – the National Party’s Spokesperson and Member of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee – stated, “New Zealand and the UK have a long history and strong relationship. Our citizens live, work and holiday together and bringing the travel and trade under one agreement will strengthen the relationship further. For this reason, the Government should model the NZ/UK free trade agreement on the CER agreement with Australia, our most comprehensive agreement to date, and it should include free movement of people.”

Such calls were echoed by those in Australia, with Senator James Paterson endorsing free trade and the free movement of people within CANZUK on national news, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison also celebrating the commencement of Brexit talks between the UK and Australia, confirming that an upcoming deal would “offer more opportunities for Australian and UK citizens to live and work in each other’s countries”.

In September, a major step was taken within the UK parliament as the All-Party Parliamentary Group for CANZUK was finalized, chaired by Paul Bristow MP and garnering membership from parliamentary members from all political parties. CANZUK International was also appointed as the official advisor to the group and continues to liaise with MPs in the development of CANZUK policies.

Finally, in December, a UK Parliamentary petition was drafted and submitted by CANZUK International in support for reciprocal migration and free trade between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The petition quickly surpassed the 10,000 signature threshold to receive an official response from the UK government, and said response is expected within the coming weeks. The response is highly expected to be supportive of developing CANZUK policies given Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s support for closer ties between the four nations.

With effective advocacy work from CANZUK International, both public and political support for closer CANZUK ties has gained incredible momentum throughout 2020. Whether via media interviews, live panel discussions, thought-pieces or educational content, we have continued to gain support for our proposals and are incredibly confident with the direction that we are heading in for 2021. As the leading organization spearheading the CANZUK campaign, we are delighted with the progress made towards closer CANZUK ties throughout 2020 and will continue to advocate for progressive migration and trade deals between the four countries in 2021 and beyond.

From all of us at CANZUK International, thank you for your continued support of our campaign. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy, safe and prosperous new year for 2021.

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