Within the past couple of years, the idea of a union between Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK has received overwhelming support. Under a "CANZUK" agreement, there would be free movement of goods and citizens between the four nations in support of closer ties and a unified global presence. Now, in this post-Brexit reality, such a union seems more desirable than ever.
On the fateful weekend that the UK left the European Union, Erin O'Toole, the Conservative leadership candidate, revived the call for a CANZUK agreement once again. He said that several publications in the UK had contacted him to comment on the possibility of the union in the future, to which he responded:
"If I become PM, I will prioritize CANZUK through PM Johnson and counterparts in Australia and New Zealand... With Brexit and PM Johnson’s majority, it would be likely well received in Britain."
Such a promise is fitting, considering that Canada's Conservative Party has formally adopted the proposed CANZUK agreement as an official party policy.
Earlier this month, O'Toole also said that Canada should be "focused on coordinating with our allies and re-stimulating those alliances." His comment was made in criticism of the country's ongoing efforts to land a seat at the UN Security Council.
"While multilateral institutions like the UN allow for too many bad actors, an alliance like CANZUK is something that involves democracies that are like-minded, with common interests and values, and that would be able to work towards common goals," O'Toole told The Epoch Times.
Other political leaders have spoken openly about their support for the idea as well. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that if the UK "can do something better" with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, they "certainly should." In Australia, Senator Eric Abetz, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee, stated that CANZUK "would make us the envy of the world."
CANZUK International, the leading advocacy organization behind the campaign, recently submitted a report to the Canadian Parliament outlining the benefits of the union. Titled "The Future of Canada's Foreign Policy," the report discussed the benefits of freedom of movement for citizens, multi-lateral free trade and foreign policy coordination among the four leading Commonwealth realms.
"We are virtually the same people with only the cover of our passports dividing us," says James Skinner, the founder of CANZUK International. "If the European Union can embrace and implement an area of free movement and free trade with over 508 million citizens, living in 28 different member states—all of whom speak different languages, encompass different legal systems and embrace different cultures—there is no reason why the CANZUK nations can’t also embrace these policies for its citizens."
In a 2018 poll that was conducted before Brexit was finalized, a majority of pollsters showed approval for the idea. 76% of Canadians, 73% of Australians, 82% of New Zealanders, and 68% of Britons were all in favor of the union, with the greatest increase in positive feedback demonstrated in the UK when compared to polling from a year prior. In fact, it was found that most Britons were never totally opposed to free movement; they just preferred it not to be with the European Union.
Beyond public approval, certain circumstances exist that would convenience the formation of the union. For one, a post-Brexit immigration policy that is to take effect in 2021 will largely be a point-based system, which Skinner believes strengthens the case for a CANZUK agreement.
"If the UK adopts a point-based system, it will set the foundation for implementing facilitated migration with Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, similar to the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement existing between Australia and New Zealand," he said.
Additionally, all four nations are already a part of the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the United States, which combines their armed forces and intelligence services into the most comprehensive security alliance in the world.
"Combining this relationship with increased diplomatic ties alongside NATO and the United Nations Security Council would ensure increased security for CANZUK citizens and a safer world promoted by four like-minded nations."
If a CANZUK agreement is reached in the future and a union between the four nations is actually realized, there is no denying that the move would be historic for the Commonwealth.
CANZUK and coronavirus
In addition to his proposals for facilitated migration, free trade, and foreign policy, Skinner also suggests that "Reciprocal Health Care Agreements," or RHCAs, between the four nations would serve beneficial in times of crisis, such as during pandemics.
Currently, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK participate in RHCAs, which gives their citizens access to free medical services (such as treatments for emergencies, illnesses, or injuries) when traveling to each country.
Skinner explains that if Canada were to join the other three nations in a reciprocal CANZUK health care agreement, it would allow Canadians to travel to any of the CANZUK countries without needing to purchase expensive travel insurance coverage, as they typically have to do when visiting the United States. In return, Australians, New Zealanders, and Britons would be able to receive quality Canadian health care services, which is been ranked 10th in the world.
"No better example can be provided than the current COVID-19 crisis," Skinner continues. "For many, the virus has resulted in flight cancellations and rigid border protections, leaving thousands stranded and unable to return home."
"Nevertheless, the RHCAs offer peace of mind to Australians, New Zealanders and Britons who fall ill, meaning emergency healthcare coverage is readily available without the added stress of claiming post-treatment reimbursement from insurance companies."
Photo by Wikipedia Commons
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