Post-Brexit Push Afoot to Create New Alliance Between Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand

CANZUK would see free movement, trade, and foreign policy cooperation between the 4 nations
March 1, 2020 Updated: March 2, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

Now that Britain is finally out of the European Union, there are calls for Canada to do more to strengthen ties with its traditional ally.

Conservative MP and leadership candidate Erin O’Toole says instead of putting effort into such endeavours as pursuing a seat at the U.N. Security Council, Canada “should be focused on coordinating with our allies and re-stimulating those alliances.”

O’Toole, the shadow minister for foreign affairs, is a supporter of CANZUK International, an organization advocating facilitated migration, free trade, and foreign policy coordination between the “natural allies” of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

The weekend Britain left the EU, O’Toole called for the implementation of CANZUK, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed interest in the idea.

“The idea of CANZUK is realpolitik. It’s something that the circumstances call for, an aspirational multilateralism,” O’Toole told The Epoch Times.

“While multilateral institutions like the U.N. allow for too many bad actors, an alliance like CANZUK is something that involves democracies that are like-minded, with common interests and values, and that would be able to work towards common goals.”

According to CANZUK’s website, the campaign advocates closer cooperation between the four Commonwealth countries “so they may build upon existing economic, diplomatic, and institutional ties to forge a cohesive alliance of nation-states with a truly global outlook.”

The Express reports that the initiative has the backing of Johnson, who said last year, “If we can do something better with Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, we certainly should.” British MP Bob Seely, chair of the CANZUK All Party Parliamentary Group, told The Express that “the Foreign Office is looking at it.” “We have the EU and U.S. trade deals to focus on this year, but many of us in Britain and abroad would like to put this plan on the front burner,” he said.

Canada’s Conservative Party has already formally adopted the CANZUK proposal as official party policy.

“After Brexit happened, I had many journalists from publications in the U.K. call me about CANZUK. It’s all about working together to turn a concept into a reality,” O’Toole said.

CANZUK founder and chief executive James Skinner said the “ideal free trade agreement” between Canada and the U.K. would resemble the Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement between New Zealand and Australia that came into effect in 1983.

“Under our proposals, Canada and the U.K. would join this agreement and benefit from the removal of barriers to commerce and tariffs,” Skinner said in an interview.

“The trade agreement would also follow similar protocols whereby citizens of the four countries would offer skills recognition for CANZUK citizens. This means that those qualified in a profession in any of the four countries would be able to practise that profession in the other countries without the requirements of re-testing, sitting examinations, and redoing certifications.”

Britain recently announced a new post-Brexit immigration policy to be implemented in January 2021, to be shaped around a points-based system, which Skinner thinks would make it easier to facilitate more migration between the CANZUK countries.

“We are content with the U.K.’s policy implementing a points-based system, as this is the system adopted within Australia,” he said.

“Despite this system, Australia still embraces facilitated migration with New Zealand, as the points-based system is the foundation of controlling migration from countries outside of a diplomatic agreement,” he explains.

“Therefore, if the U.K. adopts a point-based system, it will set the foundation for implementing facilitated migration with Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, similar to the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement existing between Australia and New Zealand.”

Diplomatically, Skinner believes CANZUK will provide other efficient means for the participating countries to coordinate better and assess threats.

“The four countries are already part of the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance (along with the United States), which is the most comprehensive effective security, signals, and human intelligence alliance in the world,” he said. “Combining this relationship with increased diplomatic ties alongside NATO and the United Nations Security Council would ensure increased security for CANZUK citizens and a safer world promoted by four like-minded nations.”

With each country governed under some variation of a Westminster system, to help them maintain the alliance and help it coordinate on crucial security issues—such as such as whether Chinese telecom giant Huawei should have access to 5G networks—O’Toole says the best approach would be to avoid “big government entities” and just have a “small group of elected parliamentarians from each country work together” to avoid the problems of overreach that can plague multilateral institutions.

He emphasizes focusing on increased cooperation and collaboration between the Five Eyes alliance, especially on things such as cyber security, particularly as it regards China.

As for criticisms that CANZUK is an effort to create a new “Anglosphere” out of nostalgia for the British Empire, or that it’s anti-American, O’Toole says that’s not what the endeavour is about.

“It’s an alliance between countries that share a deep history with one another, a belief in human rights, and a belief in the rule of law. We’re also all parliamentary democracies. I’d be open to other Commonwealth democracies like India being involved down the line as well,” he said.

“CANZUK is an opportunity for countries of the English-speaking world who have fought together before and believe in freedom and liberty to come together,” he said.