“We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed. If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.” – Winston Churchill, 1953
Since at least the time of the Reformation, England- which later became part of the United Kingdom- had a relationship with Europe as Churchill described above. Europe was a continent where the British would often get involved (usually in wars to keep the balance of power and prevents tyrants from dominating the continent), but not a place that defined Britain. Rather, Great Britain defined herself as a global nation. It explored, it traded, it settled people on every continent, it ended slavery, and created globalisation. However, that began change in 1973.
I think the best way to understand the UK’s 40 year relationship with the EU is to think of it as a dalliance. In 1973, the UK was down on its luck. The empire had mostly disappeared. The economy was in shambles. But there, across the English Channel was a beautiful young woman (or man- whatever you fancy) in the form of the EEC.
Traditionally, what came from the continent was often a head ache. For every art masterpiece there was an accompaniment of a dictator and war. For every brilliant piece of philosophy there seemed to be an accompanying piece of poisonous philosophy like Communism or Fascism. However, this new Europe seemed to be different. She was beautiful, smart, sophisticated, and seemed to lack the dark tendencies of her parents. She was also economically vibrant and prosperous. Here was the new Europe, Ms. EEC- truly interested in liberty, equality and fraternity and best of all, in peace! The UK was head over heels for its new love interest. The British family, the Commonwealth, took a back seat to Ms. EEC.
Over time however, Britain began to discover that the new Europe had almost as much baggage as the old Europe. Ms. EEC would do very strange things. First she changed her name to Ms. EU and became very bossy. When she didn’t get her way, such as when Britain did not sign up to her euro business scheme, she threw a tantrum. She would have her relatives come stay with you for weeks at a time. She quit her job, was constantly taking your money, and going on shopping sprees. She was too often drunk. Eventually, and even though you still fancy her and after a tortured decision, you decide enough is enough and you walk away.
You still want to be friends- you would be happy to get coffee together from time to time- but you cannot keep seeing each other. She responds very angrily to your break up, she wants to punish you in fact, and it might be a while until you are on friendly terms. Where can this newly single Britain turn for love and support? To his family of course!
Make no mistake, the UK can stand on its own two feet, or as the Prime Minister brilliantly put it during her Conservative Party Conference Speech: “We don’t need to punch above our weight because our weight is substantial enough already.” Indeed, the United Kingdom is the world’s fifth largest economy (and fastest growing of the G7), is the world’s second ranked soft power, and has the fourth largest military budget. However, Britain is not an inward-looking country. It is a country that explores the globe and embraces the world. With that being said, transitioning from a relationship and a way of doing things is never easy, and that is why the UK should turn to its closest friends and Anglosphere family- Canada, America, Australia and New Zealand- to help make the UK succeed as it transitions out of its past relationship with the EU.
Readers might be wondering about my use of the word “family” to refer to other Anglosphere countries. The reason I use that word is due to the incredibly close bonds between Anglosphere countries in terms of history, law, language, culture and shared experiences and values. In a fantastic piece for City AM, Graeme Leach, defines the Anglosphere as being “a concept that can trace its lineage back to Winston Churchill’s A History of the English Speaking Peoples“, includes “five core countries: the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand” and “is becoming a distinct civilisation in its own right.” Unlike in the EU- where the UK was supposed to submit to the supremacy of EU law and directives- the Anglosphere has a long history of co-operation based on trust, partnership, and respect- an example being the Five Eyes interoperability organisation where the Anglosphere countries share with each other their most sensitive intelligence. Building quick trading alliances with the Anglosphere will not only soften negative tariff effects that may come from Brexit, but will in fact be a boon to the British economy.
According to the World Bank, the core five Anglosphere economies (the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) accounted for 33 per cent of global GDP in 2015 (World Bank data – nominal GDP at market exchange rates). This compared with a 21 per cent share for the EU, excluding the UK. Therefore, moving into an economic free trade zone with the UK’s Anglosphere partners puts Britain in a larger English-speaking trade bloc than the EU single market without the baggage of the EU’s rules, courts, and immigration demands which involve free movement from countries that are much poorer and don’t speak the same language as Great Britain. This trading bloc would be one based on equals. There would be no Anglosphere Union. There would be no Anglosphere Commission, Court or Parliament-rather it would be a partnership of sovereign nations. The good news is that this deal could be done quickly, America’s incoming administration and Congress, along with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have all backed a free trade deal with the United Kingdom.
Finally, a quick trade deal with the Anglosphere can lead to greater possibilities for the UK as it moves confidently into the 21st century. It could lead to free movement of labour between the anglosphere countries- which would allow entrepreneurs, doctors and other professionals to work in other English speaking countries- filling shortages such as NHS doctors- without having to rely on labour from countries were their English might be poorer and the training may not be as advanced. James Skinner, of the Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation, will be writing about the opportunities Anglosphere Freedom of Movement of Labour presents more on the Daily Globe soon. Furthermore, if other countries see the UK’s ability to come into quick trade deals with the Anglosphere countries, it may encourage them to also go into negotiations with the UK for a free trade deal. An Anglosphere trade bloc could be a first step towards greater Commonwealth integration, which was so shamefully abandoned when the UK entered the EEC. Greater Commonwealth integration would encourage deals with Commonwealth nations like India and Singapore, or a deal similar to the “C9” one I advocated two years ago.
Breaking up with the EU, like ending any relationship, is hard. When times get tough, it is important to turn to those who care about you- in the UK’s case that is the Anglosphere. It’s important not to believe the excitable emotional claims of the EU of doom- they are going through the break up too. Eventually you’ll trade and deal with them normally and like adults. Great Britain- come home to your family in the Anglosphere. There is a big world of opportunity out there for the UK- your family can help you get out and into the world again.