Support is growing among conservative politicians to strengthen diplomatic ties between Australia and three of its closest allies—Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
The proposed CANZUK alliance would introduce reciprocal migration, free trade, and foreign policy cooperation between these like-minded countries, which share bonds through their cultures, history, common-law legal system, respect for human rights, and Westminster-style political structures.
“The idea of CANZUK is steadily gaining momentum,” Australian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz told The Epoch Times. “The Conservative Party of Canada has given its formal support for CANZUK, and in the UK, Conservatives for CANZUK now boasts 33 parliamentarians.”
Abetz met with Trade Minister Dan Tehan on Feb. 18 to make the case for the idea. He is in the process of formalising a group of Australian parliamentarians in support of CANZUK, with 14 so far expressing their interest, he said.
James Skinner, the founder and chief executive of CANZUK International, told The Epoch Times, “No other countries in the world are as like-minded or close as the four CANZUK nations.”
The aspirational alliance is already fraternally connected by sharing the same Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II. Each also participates in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which also includes the United States.
The policy idea was born out of a conservative conference in Halifax, Canada, in 2018, where it was almost unanimously adopted.
“As the UK has left the European Union, Canada seeks to diversify its relationships outside the USA, and Australia seeks closer international cooperation to combat rising tensions with China, the time is right for these nations to form such an alliance,” Skinner said.
“In doing so, they will provide work, business and travel opportunities for citizens, promote economic growth through free trade, and enhance our national security and defence efforts by building on our existing ties through the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance,” he said.
But Srdjan Vucetic, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, thinks that the concept has a slim chance of success.
“The most obvious reason is geographic distance, which matters in trade and tourism as well as in defence. Geography alone makes CANZUK unrealistic,” he wrote in an op-ed for the Globe and Mail on Jan. 28.
He argued that the idea doesn’t play well outside of conservative circles, noting that it reflects how different political leaders engage with history.
“When [Canadian Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole] got up before dawn to chat about CANZUK with like-minded politicians in Australia and the U.K. at one live-streamed event organised from London, he felt free to make a tired joke about the sun never setting on the British Empire,” Vucetic wrote.
“But talk to other Canadian leaders, and you will find them struggling to accept a geopolitical pact that smacks of Victorian—and Edwardian—era dreams of bringing the ‘English-speaking peoples’ closer together,” he wrote.
Despite that, both Skinner and Abetz are confident that CANZUK can and will be achieved, with each noting the high levels of support for the idea in all four countries.
“A poll of 13,600 people in 2018 for CANZUK International found overwhelming support for free movement in all four nations, 82 percent of New Zealanders, 76 percent of Canadians, 73 percent of Australians and 68 percent of Britons,” Abetz said.