The countries that make up the Commonwealth are inextricably linked by their shared history and values; the rule of law, good works through aid, sport and democracy and shared cultures. Together, as one, the modern Commonwealth strives to improve the lives of its 2.4 billion people, whether that is ensuring good education for all its children to curing debilitating but easily treated diseases such as blindness.
To me Commonwealth Day symbolises all the good that comes from a united family of nations. The Commonwealth is the natural successor of Empire, an entity that stretched across the globe. Whilst there is wrong-doing embedded in the Empire’s history, so much more came of it. From a shared legal system and parliamentary democracy, to the exportation of inventions around the world – the car, and rail locomotive, the computer, cricket and rugby, the bicycle, the jet engine and the postage stamp so name but a few.
Thus, the Commonwealth is a family that shares a common heritage and a vision for a common future. Unfortunately, however, ever since the UK – the spiritual head of the Commonwealth – entered the EU, the Commonwealth has fallen into disrepair. Such was the eagerness of successive British Prime Ministers to look to Europe, the family that the UK is part of has been allowed to drift apart.
Now, as Brexit approaches, a unique opportunity arises to rejuvenate the Commonwealth and all it stands for. The Commonwealth stands for good health, human rights, gender equality, the rule of law and world peace. These principles must be enforced with ever greater urgency with all 53 member states working as one to improve the lot of humanity across the globe. An increasingly influential Commonwealth would not only ensure the organisations’ survival but also result in a happier, healthier populace.
Yet the Commonwealth cannot stop at mutual aid and promotion of peace and rights. It is in a prime position to utilise the benefits of free trade. The UK should emphasise the case for this post-Brexit. Indeed, the Commonwealth nations should be first in line to negotiate free trade agreements so that the people that already share history and culture can also once again share in the mutual benefits of multilateral free trade and commerce too.
The UK should not stop there. The 16 Commonwealth Realms, including the CANZUK nations, share and even more intimate bond with each other. In all 16 nations, The Queen is head of state and English is an official or primary language. This bond can and should be strengthened post-Brexit with the creation of greatly enhanced economic and cultural ties including perhaps to begin with, a CANZUK union.
Together the 53 nations of the Commonwealth have achieved so much but now as we all look to a future after Brexit and in time a post-Elizabethan era, the Commonwealth must be reinvented for a new age. It should be an age of closer cooperation and trade, of greater culture sharing and history making, an age of more peace and democracy. It should be The Age of the Commonwealth of Nations, an era where the Commonwealth takes up the mantel of global leadership.