When I returned from my honeymoon last year to Australia I was dumbfounded by the number of references to the Commonwealth and Britain in newspapers and on TV. I don’t think I can even recall in the last five years a time when the Commonwealth has been mentioned here in the UK in relation to trade, but in Australia it is on the tip of everyone’s lips and forefront of their thoughts. Here is an English speaking country with strong ties to the UK and a GDP of $1. 4 Trillion, surely they should be a more important partner for the UK and one we should put higher on our agenda. Combine Australia with the other 52 Commonwealth nations and you have a combined GDP of $10.45 trillion representing 14% of the worlds GDP. That includes countries in Africa, India and Canada with over 2 billion inhabitants – surely with all the talk of Europe and the value we get in trade, we should be ensuring our global trading partners who share history, law and order, heads of state and language are also the forefront of our minds.
With recent security fears in Europe there has been a lot of talk about security in the UK but as I understand it our intelligence comes from Five Eyes (FVEY) an intelligence alliance between the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. This can be tracked back to World War 2 and while Edward Snowden brought it more into public conscious, it is widely regarded as the most comprehensive known espionage alliances in history. Our ability to work with our Commonwealth brothers and, in this case, the US is well documented so why is it failing to get any real voice in the discussion on Europe and why have we not done more with it?
As I understand it when Britain joined the EEC after Charles de Gaulle rejected our application a number of times it was agreed that the Imperial Preference, a method of promoting unity through the Commonwealth countries, would have to be abandoned by the UK. This probably was the beginning of the UK turning its back on the Commonwealth as a trading block as it embraced the growing European market. But as we now see global trade grow and Europe decline is it worth looking to embrace a new trading focus? Certainly Europe’s protectionist view and the application of the common external tariff does nothing to help our consumers or Commonwealth producers.
One benefit could be immigration with the abolishment for our appalling point based system where highly educated people from the Commonwealth cannot move and live in the UK because of the current unlimited migration policy within the EU. By evening out migration so the UK can attract the very best talent from anywhere in the world certainly is worth considering. My own office for example has many different nationalities but the ability to keep people from Australia, America, New Zealand and India is difficult under the current system. Certainly feeling is strong and in a letter to David Cameron from Commonwealth supporters went as far as stating that ‘descendants of men and women who volunteered to fight alongside Britain in two world wars must stand aside in favour of people with no connection to the UK’. Strong sentiment and highlights the loyalty and dedication of Commonwealth members, something Britain should embrace.