Britain is once again a free, independent, sovereign nation. Our Parliament, the oldest in the world (apart from the Tynwald, Isle of Man), once again has control over the laws it passes. Our Exchequer once again can decide how our taxes will be spent. Our Government can once again decide who can enter our country and why.
These are the freedoms we have restored to our islands. This, however, is only stage one of this great national project. What will really matter for our future prosperity is what we do with these freedoms. Top of the agenda should be a concerted effort to turn CANZUK, a free and voluntary association of Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, from a dream into a reality.
To the enemies of Brexit, our decision to leave the European Union was a reflection of a nativist, insular sentiment. It represented a desire to turn inwards and to break with our allies and international responsibilities.
This is the most common and grievous distortion of the project. For Brexit is really about turning outwards. The European Union’s problem was always that while it may allow free trade within its borders, it showed a consistent lack of interest in anything beyond. Even a free trade deal with Canada took seven years, and was nearly scuppered by a single industry in a single province in a single EU member state.
This is anathema to the British nation, which has shown a consistent drive throughout its history to forge closer and deeper ties with all the nations and peoples on this earth. What the EU views with suspicion, we view as a source of new opportunities and greater prosperity.
While we have spent all these years trying to make an uneasy and unhappy relationship inside the EU work, we could have spent our time and efforts on the easiest and happiest relationship of all: that deep and lasting bond between the free, English-speaking peoples of the world.
With Canada, Australia and New Zealand we share not just a common history, culture, language, and a Head of State in Her Majesty The Queen. More importantly we share a love of freedom and with it the values of democracy, human rights, rule of law, free trade, freedom of speech and religion. We have uniquely close relations in intelligence-sharing through the “Five Eyes” network, along with the USA and, despite the EU’s protectionism, on trade as well.
This is why the idea of CANZUK is so popular. It is supported by 82 per cent of New Zealanders, 76 per cent of Canadians, 72 per cent of Australians, and 68 per cent of Brits.
What would CANZUK mean exactly? That would be up to us to decide, but I support CANZUK International’s call for “freedom of movement, free trade, coordinated foreign policy and constitutional dialogue” between our four nations.
Critically as Australian Senator James Paterson writes in a paper for the Adam Smith Institute, a CANZUK agreement would not require the UK “to sacrifice its newly reclaimed sovereignty. There would be no ‘ever closer union’, no supranational bureaucracy, and no international courts able to override democratically elected governments.”
This would be a voluntary arrangement between four nations of similar life expectancies, GDP per capita, unemployment rates as well as all the cultural and historical elements mentioned. There would be no problems of assimilation and integration, only good-humoured disputes about whether colour is spelled with a “u”. (Spoiler alert: it is).
With time this alliance could expand to include other nations, especially the realms where The Queen is also the Sovereign and in time, special partnerships could be formed with nations such as Singapore, Taiwan, Israel, India and hopefully a free Hong Kong.
One day, maybe even sooner than we think, I can see Ireland too joining this new dynamic alliance, completing the family of nations that emanate from these islands… but for now, let us take the next step in this great project of national renewal, with a new and exciting CANZUK relationship, building ever stronger, as we begin to climb through the third decade of this century.