Remember the Commonwealth? You should.

One of the saddest things about our joining the quaintly-named “Common Market” in 1973 was the way we thoughtlessly turned our backs on the Commonwealth.  It was only thirty years since Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders (and many others) had fought and died alongside British troops to defend the Mother Country.  Yet thirty years on, it seemed more important to ally ourselves with our former enemy than to respect the ties of language, culture and history.

Of course we know the reasons.  The Commonwealth was backward-looking, fuddy-duddy, Kiplingesque, an unwelcome reminder of a colonial past, whereas Europe was exciting, modern, the place where the future of commerce and industry would be forged in the white-heat of modern technology.  Colonial back-waters had nothing on the growth prospects of Europe.  In those days, before the Internet had annihilated distance, New Zealand seemed a long way away.

Our decision did real damage, both to the economies of Commonwealth countries and to our relationships with them.  Yet the politicians of those days — Macmillan, Heath, Wilson — no doubt believed they were acting in the best interests of the British people.

My.  How things have changed.  Just this year, Commonwealth GDP overtook €urozone GDP.  And last time I checked, European GDP was flat-lining, while average growth in the Commonwealth was 3+%, and higher in some countries.  India is over 5%.

So it’s a good time to take a new look at the Commonwealth.  And a good time for a new book, “Commonwealth Trade, Growth, Wealth”, by Tim Hewish (Parliamentary Researcher for Steve Baker MP) & James Styles, and published in association with the Freedom Association.  It reviews the territory in some detail, but in an engaging and accessible way, and it has an important story to tell.  It quotes a Commonwealth High Commissioner as saying “The UK was too focussed, and some would say too obsessed, with the EU”.

Indeed.  Europhiles love to claim that the EU represents 50% of our foreign trade, as though that were a great success (although the true figure is currently around 43%, and falling).  But it raises the question, if the EU is only around 20% of global trade, what are we doing wrong in the rest of the world?  There is no reason why our trade with the EU should be compromised when we leave the EU, but leaving will create an important new emphasis on the rest of the world where the growth is, rather than on the one major economic area in long-term relative decline.

The authors quote a fascinating study from JP Morgan, who set out to assess the monetary incompatibility of several possible groups of countries.  That is, what are odds of a monetary union failing within that group?  (Don’t ask for the methodology — but I tend to trust JP Morgan).  The Anglosphere has the second lowest incompatibility rating of the six groups they looked at, after Latin America, and below 30%.  The €urozone, by contrast, has the highest incompatibility — over 50% — and just the same as a group of countries selected at random (“Countries beginning with M”).  If only the €uro’s founding fathers had done some due diligence!

Neither I nor the authors are suggesting that we should in fact have an Anglosphere monetary union.  But we have a good measure of compatibility, alongside a common language, and similar legal and accounting systems.

Today I see in the Telegraph letters someone, yet again, asking what is our alternative plan for Britain when we leave the EU — as though being independent, democratic and a global trading nation were not enough in itself.  But leaving the EU must drive a re-engagement for British trade and industry with the growing economies of the rest of the world.  And the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere are a great place to start.

“Common Trade, Growth, Wealth”, with a foreword by Andrew Rosindell, is published by The Hampden Trust.  ISBN 978-0-9574049-0-8.

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12 Responses to Remember the Commonwealth? You should.

  1. Charles Wardrop says:

    Yet again, a vitally important message for our UK trade and our thinking. Thanks.

  2. Phil J says:

    How strange that you should remind us of those heady days where this was a country full of freedoms…and then the “do-gooders” got a foothold and everything has since ‘dun-badder’!

  3. Andrew Shakespeare says:

    I get so depressed sometimes looking at our situation. We have Cameron so desperate that he’s trying to ape Boris Johnson’s language, and proposing an in/in referendum if re-elected (fat chance!) that is weasel-worded to sound at first like an in/out referendum. But all the time that he refuses to do anything, his hopeless government of incompetents makes a balls-up of absolutely everything, ensuring that Miliband will be the next prime minister by virtue of not being David Cameron. But Miliband will also more likely sign us up to EU servitude than hold any referendums.

    Come 2020, one wonders whether the battle will all be over, Great Britain having ceased to exist as anything other than an island carved into a variety of Euro regions. Sure, public opinion builds and builds and builds — 51 percent ready to vote “out” acocrding to today’s Mail, up 10 percent in a year — but since when did public opinion trouble a federast? Just one more obstacle to be circumvented in the realisation of their ambitions.

    • rfhmep says:

      Cheer up Andrew! The people cannot be denied forever. Eventually, we shall win — and I hope and trust in my lifetime.

  4. Linda Hudson says:

    Britain cannot afford to lose this struggle!

  5. johnd2008 says:

    I voted to join because I was stupid enough to believe the bullshit about it being only a trading agreement. I was unhappy at the way we treated the Commonwealth and can understand their resentment. I sincerely hope that we will be out of this mess in my lifetime and am pleased at the way the pressure to leave is mounting. I hope that we do not have to take to the streets to do so, but if that is what it takes then so be it.

  6. Jane Davies says:

    After a lifetime working and paying taxes and paying in to the NIF I joined family in Canada, a Commonwealth nation. Two years later on reaching reirement age I applied for my hard earned state pension only to find that I will not get my rightful annual cost of living increases. This applies to most Commonwealth countries and a few other countries and is nothing short of theft and discrimination. Theft, because we pay into the NIF with our own money, discrimination because this affects just 4% of UK state pensioners, the rest enjoy their annual uprating wherever they choose to retire in the world just like those in the UK. The frozen state pension is a disgraceful stain on the reputation of a once great country whose present Prime Minister, although stating if he won the election he would end this injustice, has done nothing to end this shameful treatment of UK citizens. It seem members of Commonwealth countries count for nothing and if one is a pensioner living in poverty because of this blatent theft of pension uprating then that’s just too bad, nobody gives a rats rear end about it.

    • But remember that British pensioners in the sunny Costa del Sol still get their Winter Fuel Allowance. EU rules require it.

      • Andy Robertson-Fox says:

        But EU rules also require that UK pensioners living within the EEA also get the annual uprate to their UK State Retirement Pension. Is UKIP planning to withdraw that right if ever….?
        And would UKIP then withdraw those rights from pensioners in for example the USA or
        Or would UKIP recognise the blatant discrimination currently affecting the frozen 4% and make uprating universal?

  7. Andy Robertson-Fox says:

    What Jane Davies says is very true but a few points to add are firstly this iniquitous pensions discrimination has been government policy for over sixty years so precedes the birth of the “Common Market” and is not the brainchild of the current administration, Secondly the fact that Commonwealth countries are involved is to all intents and purposes irrelevant; it is the payment of the annual uprating to the individual UK pensioner citizen who has met the same conditions for NI contributions as everyone else when working that is relevant. For some, however, because they do not live in retirement in the UK or EEA or a select group of countries like Israel, the USA or the Philippines withdrawal on the same conditions is denied – such countries include Canada, Australia, south Africa and also non Commonwealth countries like Thailand. Thirdly, there is no legal, moral, financial or administrative justification for the continued application of the frozen pension regulations.

    I appreciate that this is slightly going off at a tangent but given the manner in which it is claimed that the UK turned its back on the Commonwealth countries when it joined the Market and the manner in which the UK actually accepts some of them subsidising the impoverished UK pensioner what on earth makes anyone think that they would welcome the UK back if a decision to leave the EU was made?

    I live in the Far East – an area not unfamiliar I believe to Roger Helmer – and the trading agreements that Australia and New Zealand, for example, have effected over the last twenty or so years and continue to do so are not I suggest ones they would wish to give up or could necessarily facilitate in addition to UK requests.

    • Albie Inyerfays says:

      In the first half of the 20th century, Great Britain and her commonwealth were the “Saviours of Europe” on two occasions. In the early part of the 21st century, Great Britain appears to have abanoned her commonwealth, and is now being dictated to by the very countries that she either defeated, or saved from enslavement. How times change. As far as the frozen pension scandal is concerned, our once great nation is repeatedly put to shame by those she once governed. The Irish Republic, so recently reported to be on the verge of bankruptcy, can still find the funds to uprate it’s state pension, no matter where it’s receipients are domiciled. British pensioners living in Canada receive a pension which is never uprated, Yet Canadian pensioners living in the UK receive a pension which is indexed anually. I can’t speak for other frozen countries, but I’m sure that this situation is repeated in many other instances.

  8. Pingback: Buried in the belly of the Brussels Beast | Roger Helmer MEP

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