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As the United Kingdom draws closer to closer to Brexit due in March next year, the last few months have been dominated by demands for a second vote, scaremongering and a no-deal scenario. Too little has been said about the idea of a CANZUK agreement, a movement which is gaining popularity in all countries involved. Many on the "remain" side have called Brexit "insular" or "isolationist." I and many others, on the other hand, see it as an opportunity to open ourselves up to the rest of the world and reforge alliances with old friends who we have long forgotten and neglected.
Currently, due to EU regulations on trading with other countries, the UK is not allowed to negotiate such an agreement. The EU argues that member states should not be allowed to seek major trade agreements with non-EU nations unless it is "fair and mutually beneficial to the rest of the member states." In other words, the EU restricts member states in striking separate trade deals. The CANZUK nations as they currently stand have very low exports. New Zealand lists Australia presently as it's their biggest trading partner for the apparent reason that they both have very close cultural and political ties.
What is CANZUK?
CANZUK is an idea that Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK form their own free trade and free movement bloc, a similar situation we have with the 27 other EU member states. Although unlike the EU, it would not include the surrender of sovereignty and having to pay extortionate amounts of money each year researching policies on the length of banana's and unfair common fisheries policies which have had no benefit to the UK in the slightest. The CANZUK idea is gaining support from all four nations involved. Former UK Foreign Secretary and Mayor of London; Boris Johnson, has said in the past that supported closer alignment to those three commonwealth countries. Senator James Paterson of Victoria; Australia called CANZUK "an opportunity." The Conservative Party of Canada, recently adopted a policy at their annual conference which called for a CANZUK deal to be struck, while New Zealand opposition Leader; Simon Bridges has also voiced his support.
A recent poll conducted produced the results that free movement is favored by 73 percent of Australians, 76 percent of Canadians and 82 percent of New Zealanders and 68 percent of Britons, a figure which I believe will rise as the need to look beyond Europe comes more essential to Britain's future. Although it still the country with the least public support, support for CANZUK is still higher in Britain than the idea of free movement with the EU. This is in part to our closer cultural identity ties to CANZUK nations.
Why is this so different from the EU? I hear you ask. Well, it's simple. In the current EU situation, we have 28 countries with vastly different political, economic, cultural and languages. This has created significant problems with integration and the whole idea of free movement. Generally, in Europe, countries like Germany, France, and Britain are higher economically developed compared to other countries like Bulgaria and Romania. This has meant that large numbers of skilled and unskilled workers have left these countries seeking more gainful employment across different member states and who could blame them. Wouldn't you in that situation? This kind of exodus has led to a significant skills shortage in many Eastern European nation-states. This creates a strain on the economy of the nation-state, especially in copious amounts of resources and government funding has been used to train skilled workers such as Nurses and doctors, only for them to pack their bags and seek employment elsewhere, while nobody wishes to settle in a country with lack of opportunity. This creates an unbalanced migration system which affects all the countries involved.
Now let's look at the CANZUK countries. Canada, Australia, The UK, and New Zealand have got very similar, cultural, economic and political ties. All four countries. The three most commonalities between the four countries are that they are all members of The Commonwealth of Nations, they all share the monarchy in Queen Elizabeth II, and all nations share the English language as their official language, except for Canada which also lists French as an official language. Our countries also share a similar parliamentary democracy system.
The CANZUK countries also share pretty sizable and booming economies. Combined, our countries share $6.5 trillion GDP and a trade value of $3.5 trillion. This has the potential for enormous economic growth that is beneficial for all countries.
The Canzuk nations also hold higher rates of employment than many EU countries. The UK currently stands at an unemployment rate of 4.0 percent, Canada at 6.0 percent, 5.6 percent, and 4.7 percent. Part of CANZUK's idea, is that citizens of the four countries will have full working and movement rights without the need for visa's, much like we have in the EU. Regarding migration, this will create a more balanced and fair system as with all countries having a similar level of employment; there would be no massive influx to any country with a stable and reasonable level of migration for all involved. Many UK residents travel to Australia and New Zealand every year for tourism and it has seemingly become a rite of passage in the UK for young people to spend at least a year working and traveling in one of those countries on a working holiday visa (in my immediate circle at least!), a process that can be long and arduous. By bringing in free movement, we would be able to welcome and encourage more international students across CANZUK members, enabling young people to truly spread their wings and prove to "remainers" that there is a much bigger world outside of Europe and this is not about the far-right Brexit argument for wanting foreigners gone.
As it stands, exports across CANZUK nations except for New Zealand which is pretty much reliant on its trade with Australia, exports are somewhat scarce. Three percent of exports from the UK go to CANZUK nations, while Australia sends five percent with New Zealand having the highest at 22 percent. There is no reason why we shouldn't trade with such economies and a CANZUK deal would be an ideal way to start a partnership of trading nations.
Unfortunately, much of the domestic and international press has taken The Remain side in the Brexit debate. For the UK to thrive after leaving the bloc, we need to show that we are not closing ourselves down are not becoming little Englanders, we're doing the complete opposite. We will always want to remain a good neighbor to our friends in Europe, but we want to be our own people in the world. I'm not talking about rebuilding empires or a desire to return to the days of colonialism; I'm saying let's stretch out the hand of friendship to those countries we share so much in common with and historical ties. Let's build a successful partnership that has mutual respect for each other's laws, customs, democracies, and identities and not try to create an entirely new identity like the failing European project.
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