Federal CANZUK: A Nettle Worth Grasping? | Christopher Winter

You have definitely heard the term CANZUK by now. I had started writing this article way back in April 2020 before the sacred CANZUK horse was so thoroughly beaten to death by a plethora of articles, advocacy groups, and opinion pieces. I apologise for being late to the draw on this one, but I suppose a belated CANZUK article is better than none at all.

CANZUK was very prominently mentioned by quite a few ‘Leave’ factions during the Brexit campaigns of 2016 and is now once again being thrust into the public consciousness by our departure from the EU; but what does it mean and entail? Much in the same way that there are many varied and diverse opinions on what kind of ‘relationship’ Britain should have with the European Union post-Brexit, there are also a wide range of opinions on what Britain’s relationship could be like with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in a potential ‘CANZUK’ arrangement.

The opinions on it range from wanting a simple free trade block, to wishing for full integration of the four nations into a new international block. My feelings on the matter heavily trend toward the latter of these and I hope that I can at least explain to you why I feel that that arrangement would be advantageous to Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. 

In 2019, Belgian MEP and then chair of the Brexit Steering Group, Guy Verhofstadt, said:

“The world of tomorrow is not a world based on nation states or countries. It is a world order that is based on empires. China is not a nation, it’s a civilisation. India is a civilisation. The US is also an empire, more than a nation. And then finally the Russian Federation. The world of tomorrow is a world of empires in which we Europeans, and you British, can only defend your way of life, by doing it together, in a European framework and in the European Union”.

As a staunch Brexiteer myself, you may find it strange to hear me agree with Mr Verhofstadt. However, within context, I sincerely believe that he has hit the nail on the head. With the rise of China over the past 30 years, and an ever weakening, divisive, and polarised USA, the writing is pretty much on the wall for which nation will go on to dominate international geopolitical affairs for at least the latter half of this century. 

For many, this may feel like a whole new and never before seen world order; however, upon reflection, this development is more of a return to the state the world was in before the rise of European empires, before the rise of the United State, before the Chinese ‘Century of Humiliation’. We are moving back to a world in which an emboldened Eurasia with a strong and dynamic China, not North America, is at the centre of international affairs. The relatively young People’s Republic will be the new axis upon which the world turns. 

After the Suez Crisis, Britain has been a waning power. It pains me to remind myself and to remind you, dear reader, that the last 60 years of international geopolitics have not been especially kind to Britain. We have become very dependent on the United States of America and the European Union for our trade, our security, our culture, and our foreign/home policy. We cruelly abandoned the Commonwealth nations of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in exchange for quick and easy access to the European market of the EEC. Instead of strengthening our roots and friendships abroad in our former dominions, we intertwined ourselves with the continent which we had so fervently spent the last 1000 years refusing to yield to. We also left our Canadian, Aussie, and Kiwi friends to become just like us – far too dependent on other foreign powers for all matters geopolitical. 

If we continue to let our country slip, I fear that we really will just end up as the often satirised ‘51st state of America’. Over the last year, we have seen the effect of Americanisation of British politics. The impact that events thousands of miles away can have in a country like ours with totally different laws, history, practices, and culture. We are carrying on down a dangerous path which future generations will not thank us for. We must stubbornly and outright refuse to become part of, as Mr Verhofstadt put it, the new American Empire. 

I am sure that the violent scenes we have all seen from America over the last year have scared you. It has certainly scared me. Rioting and aggression from both ends of the political spectrum lit a spark in the USA which its own government and local officials could not handle. The instability of the US has made it a laughingstock and China has used this time very productively. They have reassured the world that they are a calm and stable alternative to America and her problems. But the Chinese state is not as secure as they like to portray. Significant human rights violations of minority ethnic groups and mass protests and demonstrations in Hong Kong have finally started to filter through to the public consciousness of the rest of the world. That coupled with the rising Asian powerhouse of India are just a small example of the current problems which China, specifically the CCP, faces.

Surely you would agree with me then in saying that the future of Britain cannot lie in either America or China’s bed? In my opinion, we need to establish our own fourth pillar to resist the spheres of an unpredictable United States, an overbearing federal Europe, and an unfree Chinese People’s Republic. We need a block which shares the same values, language, and culture as us. We need A block which promotes stability, freedom, and a fair common law. We need CANZUK!

Now for the difficult part, what sort of organisation should CANZUK be? According to all polling, the prospect of CANZUK is very popular with the people of all 4 nations. However, the concept is vague and often these polls do not go into detail. My view on CANZUK is that it should be a fully integrated federal union. I can imagine that many of you reading have just shuddered at the notion of Britain joining another supranational body only a few years after voting to leave one. Some who I have spoken to about this have called me hypocritical for supporting it after being so in favour of leaving the European Union. 

I totally disagree, however. My main reason for supporting leaving the EU was because I do not think that Britain is capable of integrating with the many different cultures of continental Europe. The EUs inherent instability and weakness comes from the fact that it tries to smash cultures which operate and act very differently together. This is extremely evident in the North-South divide which has plagued the EU for many years. The Mediterranean south of Europe, the Slavic East, and the Germanic/French North West are all very different in terms of culture, ethos, and language.

One of the strengths of CANZUK, however, is that the 4 nations have a very closely shared cultural heritage. We all share the same head of state, the Queen, we eat similar food, we enjoy a similar quality of life, we have very similar parliamentary structures and laws, and, with the exception of Quebec, we all speak the same language. 

A federal union between our four nations would therefore be a huge advantage to all of them individually. The vast natural resources and fertile farmland of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand would make them excellent for trade partners. Our combined military might would give us an armed forces with much greater international operational capability, and a united block in control of vital shipping lanes, air space, and land would give the federation a better bargaining position in terms of trade deals with the rest of the world.

I therefore believe that this kind of supranational federal structure would not be disliked or distrusted by the average Brit. The legal and governmental structure for CANZUK would be easy to implement, as all constituent nations share a similar respect for checks and balances, parliamentary democracy, and common law unlike many nations within the EU. 

I am not going to pretend that the idea of a federal union between these four nations is going to be without its problems. There are plenty of them. Firstly the four countries are a great distance from one another (even New Zealand and Australia are over 2500 miles from each other). This poses logistical problems as these peoples have been separated for a very long time and may not be as culturally homogenous as they once were. Republican movements in these countries are also fairly stronger than at home which could result in greater resistance to the move. There is also the looming elephant in the room of Quebec. It is very easy to imagine why a federal CANZUK would anger the Quebecois and give them strong motivation to seek independence from Canada – a move that would surely upset the Canadian government and make them less likely to agree. These countries are also currently split politically, with the centre-right governments of the UK and Australia in contrast to the centre-left governments of Canada and New Zealand. 

These are all real and legitimate concerns over the feasibility of CANZUK. But I believe that, with great international effort, these barriers could be overcome. Distance is no barrier – our jets can cruise the distance in less than a day and our fleets of steel greyhounds travel swiftly across the sea; republicanism is no barrier – it has come and gone before; Quebec is no barrier – perhaps Canada will be better off without the thorn in its side; Political difference is no barrier – the popularity of all parties’ waxes and wanes. All of these issues can be overcome if there is the political and logistical will to do so.

Indeed, it would be an uphill battle. But I believe that we should be actively choosing at least to try. I think we should be aiming for something instead of nothing. Maybe that future does indeed lie with a simple formalised free trade block, but I would hope that we are capable of so much more.

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