I’m an advocate of creating a new geopolitical partnership between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK (CANZUK). This would begin with a free trade agreement, an agreement for free movement to live and work, and a defence and security partnership. If that were seen to function well, we might move on to establish an ever closer union principle, and create some formal mechanisms for caucusing our views in global debates and enhancing mutual recognition of regulation and coordinating in other relevant ways. The aim would not be to create a new integrated superstate (certainly not at first, and probably not for many decades or centuries, if at all) but, rather, a geopolitical partnership, akin to the European Economic Community or Warsaw Pact partnerships of the 1970s.
It would be more ambitious and deep, however, than a simple free trade agreement or than the current Commonwealth. Simple trade agreements can work well between countries with vast differences in their size, political culture, GDP per capita, values and goals. Deep geopolitical partnerships cannot. Therefore, unlike a trading agreement, for which there might well be a “more the merrier” principle of bringing in as many countries as possible, the CANZUK geopolitical partnership needs to be more careful about which countries are to be included and which not.
Perhaps the most common other member proposed for CANZUK is the United States. That simply won’t work, for three key reasons. First, the US is vastly larger than any of the CANZUK states is, individually, and a lot larger than all the others combined. If the US were included, it would be an arrangement dominated by the US. But one of the central attractions of CANZUK is that it allows the CANZUK states to escape regional domination by combining into a global entity. The UK, for example, is just leaving the EU because it does not wish to be dominated by the emerging Single European State. Why would it escape one form of domination only to choose another? Again, part of the attraction of CANZUK to Canada would be to diversify away from dependence on the US. If the US were included that would magnify that dominance, not reduce it.
Second, the US has a materially different constitution, which would make mutual recognition of laws and regulation trickier. Third, the US does not have quite the same values and goals as the CANZUK countries. CANZUK would be a partner, complement and occasional competitor to the US. The US cannot be in.
The next most common suggestion is that instead of CANZUK we should have a geopolitical partnership of the whole Commonwealth. That has no chance of happening. The Commonwealth means, mainly, India. India will have no interest whatever in a deep geopolitical partnership that includes the UK. Historical baggage is just vastly too great for that.
A third proposal is the Queen’s Realms. There are 16 Commonwealth Realms that maintain the Queen as their monarch. By and large they use similar constitutional arrangements to the CANZUK countries, meaning there would be a more natural fit of regulation and law than for non-Realm states with very different constitutions, such as the US, India or Singapore.
The drawbacks of the Queen’s Realms outside the CANZUK group is that they are much poorer than the CANZUK states and not all of them have similar levels of personal security to CANZUK. Let’s take these in turn:
We see from the table that there are some non-trivial differences between the GDPs per capita even of the CANZUK members. In particular, Australia’s is more than half as big again as that of NZ and the UK. However, Australia already has a trade and free movement arrangement with NZ, and appears willing to accommodate this difference.
Adding any of the other Queen’s Realms would be another matter entirely. Even the country amongst them with the highest GDP per capita, The Bahamas, has only half the GDP per capita of the UK and NZ and a third of that of Australia. After the Bahamas there is a big jump again, to Barbados, Antigua and St Kitts.
To attempt to include these four additional states, as CANZUK began, would risk derailing the whole venture. It is certainly true that these four additional states have markedly higher GDPs per capita than Romania ($9,500) or Bulgaria ($7,500), two of the countries immigration from which the British were most sceptical within the EU. But Barbados, Antigua and St Kitts all have GDPs per capita similar to Poland’s ($13,650), which for many Britons was another problematic case.
Perhaps, in terms just of GDP per capita if it were possible to include the Bahamas without the others, that might just be feasible (though risky), not least because of the small population involved. (But see the security statistics below.)
However, a more natural way to proceed would surely be to get CANZUK established and if those initial countries worked well together for a few decades, we could then consider adding the Bahamas, Barbados, Antigua and St Kitts, perhaps after some providing some assistance to raise their GDPs per capita a little closer to ours.
One final point for now concerns the security aspect. We are unlikely to gain the consent of CANZUK populations for the scheme if we add in countries with markedly lower personal security than folk in CANZUK states are used to. Otherwise we will create concerns about gangsters, riots or other sources of violence. The murder rates per 100,000 population in CANZUK are: Canada, 1.5; Australia, 1.0; NZ, 0.9; UK, 0.9. The murder rate in Jamaica is 36.1; in St Kitts, 33.6; in the Bahamas, 29.8; Barbados 8.8; and in Antigua, 11.2.
That suggests that the Bahamas and St Kitts might also need to make some considerable progress in terms of peace and orderly conduct in their societies before they could really be considered CANZUK candidates.
Overall, then, it would be best to begin with the narrower set of countries that are most compatible. That will be challenge enough to start with. That does not mean that in some decades time we should not consider adding countries with similar constitutions, such as The Bahamas or Barbados, if they can raise their GDP per capita and reduce their murder rates. But decisions on that question are, at this stage, many decades away.