In the months preceding the Commonwealth Head of Government meeting in Perth in October, when Her Majesty The Queen will be in the city as Head of the Commonwealth, it is timely for the UK government and Parliament to reconsider their commitment to the EU and to the Commonwealth.
In the meantime Australians have to beware of our republicans but not because of their present proposals- they have none- but because of their lamentable negligence when they actually make them.
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron has been presented with a Franco-German plan for a federal Europe, according to Anatole Kaletsky, in The Times, republished in The Australian (12/2)
He says this is not so much an attempt to solve the euro crisis. It is rather an effort to exploit it to advance the euro federalist agenda that has been stalled for years.
Both major British political parties had promised that the EU Constitution would not be approved without a referendum. Renamed the Treaty of Lisbon, what was essentially the EU Constitution was put to the parliament by the Blair government without a referendum.
The Cameron government has no intention of revisiting the Treaty and submitting it to the people.
The reason is simple. Politicians on both sides fear the British people would reject it.
However, a current EU Bill will attach a referendum “lock” to any further transfers of sovereignty to Brussels. It is difficult to see how this could bind a government determined to surrender more powers to the EU.
Anatole Kaletsky warns that the non-euro countries, especially Britain, have to face up to the reality of a multispeed Europe, with a fully integrated several core, and a much looser coalition of trading partners on the outside.
He says this vision of a looser Europe has much to commend it, but it is one that successive British governments have struggled for decades to avoid.
He says it is now a fact of life. Better then, that the British government look to the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere for the true place of Britain in the world, one which the British people fully appreciate even if the political elites do not.
...Europe, the Commonwealth and negligent Australian republicans… (Continued below)
Had British politicians over the last few decades relied on the benefits of the Commonwealth instead of entering the EU, the British public would be vastly better off, and Commonwealth links maintained.
Former British politicians misled the nation in claiming that Britain would be rewarded by being put “in the cockpit”, leading Europe in the modern world.
But in fact for years the EU continued to be dominated by the Franco –German axis. The British were relegated to being the biggest paymaster after the Germans.
…burden of EU membership..
A comparison with Norway shows how well off the British people would be today had they not been mislead by their politicians. Britain could have concentrated her interests and resources where they are appreciated, the Commonwealth. She could have continued to enjoy the benefits of free trade, about which EU politicians endlessly talk, but do not apply.
The Commonwealth could have supplied Britain’s food needs at a fraction of the cost paid over the years by the British consumer. The politicians were driven by self interest, the desire to be more important internationally.
The British public learned during the last Parliament how truly self interested some of their politicians can be.
Incidentally, what does it cost the UK to belong to the European Union? As you can imagine, the answer to this is disputed. The Bruges Group estimated that in 2007 this was £52.4 billion, about A$90 billion, each year.
Whatever the amount, there are three undeniable truths about it. It is enormous, it could be better spent and it is a complete waste of money. The UK could have the same trade and investment access to the EU as Norway has under a free trade agreement, without giving up its sovereignty to the Brussels clique.
….cockpit of Europe…
The "advantages" of belonging to the EU include unlimited immigration from Europe, European decisions on how to spend euromoney in the UK, and above all the argument so beloved by British politicians from Ted Heath onwards. This is that being in the EU puts the UK in the cockpit of Europe. This is not so.
The cockpit has always been fully and amply filled by the French and Germans co-pilots, and the door to this cockpit has always been well and truly locked against anyone else. The wealth of the British serves only as economic fodder for the EU.
…politicians turn their backs on the Commonwealth…
Apart from their abject europhilia, it is a mark of too many British politicians today that they do not appreciate the great role that the Commonwealth has and could play.
The total budget of the Commonwealth is £50 million (note, that is millions not billions).
That did not stop the former Foreign Secretary David Miliband warning in 2009 that continuing political and financial support could no longer be taken for granted.
Why? The Commonwealth is not one of those “strong, effective international institutions … with formal power" – like the EU of which he was so beloved.
In fact the EU is precisely the sort of model which other regions ought to avoid if they wish to achieve real progress.
Common currencies and ”ever-closer” bureaucratic unions are recipes for trade distortion, stagnation and corruption. And the British people have never shown any interest in this.
…the British people express their preference…..
The British people are closest to the people of the Anglosphere- the Commonwealth and the USA -rather than to the alien bureaucracy which is the EU.
Just one example demonstrates how far the views of Britain’s euro elites are from those of the rank and file. In 1995 in the Turbot War the Canadians arrested a Spanish ship illegally fishing just outside of the Canadian Exclusive Economic Zone.
Spain was supported by the EU, including the German Navy. The UK and Ireland supported Canada. And to show their support, British fishing boats took to flying Canadian flags.
Canada, after all, had in living memory stood by Britain in her darkest hour. The British fishermen also believed the Spanish fishing fleet regularly breached quotas in British waters.
The dispute escalated when a Cornish fishing boat flying the Canadian flag was arrested by the French customs. They thought it was a Canadian ship fishing illegally in French waters.
Overnight, Canadian flags were flown from a large number of British and Irish vessels, the rest of the EU supporting France and Spain.
The disputes were eventually resolved diplomatically, but you can see what the rank and file thought.
The point is that culturally the British are closer to the Commonwealth and the US than they are to their neighbours. Becoming like Norway, and as Britain once was – proud and independent – would save billions, surely an important consideration in its current financial situation.
No longer weighed down by the burden of a sclerotic European bureaucracy, those free and open links in the Commonwealth, and the Anglosphere would grow without any artificial inhibitions. ( The Anglosphere is the Commonwealth and such countries as the USA, Ireland, Israel and Jordan)
The new British government has a golden opportunity to put Britain onto a more exciting and stimulating path, linked to her old friends, forging exciting relationships with new economic powerhouses such as India and moving closer to the world’s single superpower, the United States.
With her cultural links, language, economic power, defence role, law and history, Britain could play a key role in enlivening the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere as a free association between similar countries. And think of the money they would save.
It was refreshing then to hear in January of the current Foreign Secretary William Hague’s plans to return the Commonwealth to the forefront of the debate on global issues.
But the local republican movement has quite gratuitously slammed the Commonwealth of Nations as a “diminished organisation”, one unlikely to be anything other than a ”second order player”.
Responding to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary William Hague’s plans to return the Commonwealth to the forefront of the debate on global issues, republican spokesman Professor John Warhurst said the Commonwealth had been overtaken by the emphasis on bilateral relations and much newer, more relevant economic and security groupings.” (John Kerin, The Australian Financial Review, 21 January, 2011)
When I was asked my views I said: “Without British leadership, any attempt to reinvigorate the Commonwealth would be every difficult…though no doubt it would be stronger if Britain had not joined the European Union.”
I told the newspaper that in many respects the Commonwealth performed at a higher level than other international organisations, and without the cost associated with them “
“ The Commonwealth maintains it standards. Take for example the case of Zimbabwe, which was suspended from the Commonwealth and then withdrew. Zimbabwe, notwithstanding the appalling record of the government remains a full member of the United Nations.
"States with highly dubious human rights records can not only remain members; there are too may instances where they are actually appointed to bodies charged with investigating human rights violations.”
Countries are lining up to join the Commonwealth. It would be a mistake to think of the Commonwealth just in terms of CHOGM and the Commonwealth Games only, important as they are.
The Commonwealth is a continuing network of like minded countries with a common language, legal system, traditions and values.
In 1999 the republicans demonstrated their ignorance of Commonwealth requirements in the event of the fundamental constitutional change they proposed being successful.
Notwithstanding their negligence then, they have not bothered to try to understand what an important organisation is it and the great potential it has for Australia.
It is to be hoped that when they finally work out what they want, they will be more careful next time.
If indeed there is a next time.