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CANZUK: Britain’s Future?

With Brexit now well and truly complete and our time in the transition period rapidly running out, what comes next for the UK?

Most of us are still pretty unsure about what will happen to the UK on the first of January 2021. What direction will our country take? Will we trade more with the wider world and diversify our economy? Or will we perhaps enter a period of isolation, where we as a nation try to become self-sufficient? Will the EU stop trying to ruin our economy? We just don’t know.

There are several ideas about who Britain could look to get closer to in the following decades. One of these is called CANZUK.

A map of the CANZUK countries. Credit: RaviC. Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

What is CANZUK?

CANZUK, or Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, is a proposed economic and trade partnership between the aforementioned nations. This partnership would, in an ideal world, take the form of a free trade and free movement deal that also allows mutual recognition of qualifications. The theory goes that, as these four nations have very similar cultures, histories, legal systems and regulatory standards, they could work together very easily.

A similar type of agreement is already in place between Australia and New Zealand and has been since 1973. Called the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement (TTTA), it allows for the limited free movement of individuals for both work and leisure. The key difference between TTTA free movement and EU free movement is that each nation has the right to refuse entry to people on certain grounds, such as criminal convictions, terror offences and certain levels of debt.

Flags of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Credit: Sheep”R”Us. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

What could CANZUK do for the UK?

In theory, a lot of good. Before the UK entered the EU, we were one of the largest trading partners for both Australia and New Zealand. Our entrance into the EU and subsequent drop in trade with them was among the primary reasons why Australia and New Zealand pivoted their markets towards China and away from the UK. With our exit from the bloc, it now stands to reason that our trade will increase. Our trade with Canada is a similar story, though the USA is substituted for China.

Why is CANZUK better than the EU?

The EU’s main focus was integration through standardisation (see the euro, the Schengen Area, fire regulations, etc.). CANZUK would be based solely upon mutual recognition, which means that each country recognises the other’s academic and technical qualifications in their entirety. This negates the need for standardisation, because all members of the bloc recognise each respective member’s standards as equal. This is the kind of idea that is only really possible between countries with similar medical and legal systems, as well as high standards of education. The members would also reserve the right to deny entry for people with criminal backgrounds, which would be more complicated under EU freedom of movement rules.

Isn’t this just a re-hashing of the Empire?

No. The Empire was run by Britain for the benefit of Britain. CANZUK would be run by all four partner nations for the benefit of all four partner nations. CANZUK would not be the same type of arrangement as the Empire or even the EU. There would be no central government in London that legislates upon what each nation can and cannot do; each nation simply agrees to recognise the standards and laws of the others. The bloc is run for the mutual benefit of all involved.

Flags of the UK and Canada. Credit: CarolineCCB. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Could this actually happen?

Yes. The UK is currently negotiating Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with Australia and New Zealand respectively, with the Australian delegation apparently considering asking for freedom of movement. This is also apparently on the table for the New Zealand negotiators. As for Canada, the Canadian Conservative Party has officially endorsed the implementation of CANZUK in its party constitution, so if they win the 2024 Canadian election, it is likely Canada will be negotiating for free movement too.

Away from the government side of things, CANZUK has a majority of support in all four proposed member states. A 2018 poll of 13,600 people in all four countries found 73% support in Australia, 76% in Canada, 82% in New Zealand and 68% in the UK. This shows not only a high governmental will to bring about CANZUK, but popular support too.

These are all white countries – isn’t that racist?

Not at all. The CANZUK nations are more ethnically diverse than most – if not all – countries in the EU. Around 15% of the UK population is non-white, with 27% of Canada and 30% of New Zealand. Australia doesn’t collect official statistics on race, but it’s estimated to be around 24% non-white. In contrast to this, only 4% of the EU population is non-white, with that ratio only having decreased since the UK left. It is quite plain to see that CANZUK is a more racially diverse group of nations than the EU.

So that’s it, CANZUK in a nutshell. Just one idea for the future of the UK. Bringing us more economic prosperity and closer ties with some of our oldest allies. If you want to read more about CANZUK, you can do so here.