Brexit represents an exciting opportunity not just for Britain, but for the world. It is a time to re-kindle old friendships and forge new paths in the world. Unfortunately, being that the UK’s relationship with the EU spans 40 years and the two’s relationship is fairly intertwined, both governments agreed to a “transition period” lasting from March 29, 2019 until December 31, 2020. While there is a lot of short comings in the so-called “transition period”, especially for people such as fishermen, there was a silver lining in the transition agreement – the ability to negotiate and sign free trade deals to come into affect when the transition period ends.
There are some people in Britain who are calling for either Britain remaining in the EU Customs Union or a “Customs Partnership” with the EU after Brexit – which would moot the only advantage the transition period seemingly offers. The idea of a Customs Partnership, as renowned economist Shanker Singham of the Institute of Economic Affairs notes, is a terrible idea that can only hold Britain back economically. Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, is right that even Prime Minister Theresa May’s attempt at a Customs Partnership fudge introduces “a whole new web of bureaucracy” which can only impede Britain signing trade deals and international partnerships with the world. The fact is, as the EU has admitted and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has repeatedly said, 90% of future global trade will be outside the EU. Thus, any abdication of trade responsibilities to the EU, especially while not being a member and having no say, would be an act of economic self-harm on a colossal scale. As Jacob Rees-Mogg, Chairman of the European Research Group has said, “The Customs Partnership is just membership of the Customs Union and the Single Market by another name.” It is our sincere hope that the Prime Minister is still committed to the Global Britain vision outside the Customs Union she has argued for and that was in the Conservative Manifesto at the last general election.
Assuming that Parliament does not cave into the ludicrous demands for a Customs Partnership, the very first action of the British government during the transition period should be set in stone a CANZUK relationship based off free trade and mutual respect and co-operation between the citizens of the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Many may ask why focus on CANZUK first? The reason is fairly simple, the CANZ nations are Britain’s best friends and would be most willing and enthusiastic to do a trade deal first. This has been confirmed by Australia, Canada, and New Zealand – the latter’s opposition leader has full on embraced the policies of CANZUK International. The CANZUK nations are a family – they all are English speaking, share much of a common heritage, have the common system of Common Law, share similar free trading, free market, principles, their peoples frequently live in each other’s countries and all have relatively the same standards of living. Furthermore, the CANZUK nations are all situated at three key global markets – Europe, North America and the Pacific and can all work with each other to help build a global trading network – or even one through security, whether through Five Eyes or greater Defence cooperation. For two fantastic articles, among many, explaining why CANZUK is a great idea, read this piece by James Skinner and this piece by Andrew Lillico.
It is from the secure base of CANZUK, of having deals for exchange of goods and people on a fair basis of mutual respect, that the UK, now confident in its ability to shape future deals (after all it has not had an independent trade policy since joining the EEC) and with the backing of their best friends in the CANZ nations that the British can reach for being a global Britain. This process of CANZUK helping realise global Britain is already beginning, as the UK’s chief trade negotiator, Crawford Falconer, is from New Zealand. It is from the spring board of CANZUK that Britain can move to realise Churchill’s dream for the greater Commonwealth and to truly be a nation that knows how to negotiate great deals with the likes of the US, China, and nations throughout the developing world. Rather than being some kind of imperial dream, CANZUK can be the model for how nations as friends interact with each other in the twenty-first century.
The future is an interconnected world. CANZUK can be a model for building a better world. The UK should work to build that relationship as soon as possible.