Nearly three months on from Britain’s momentous decision to leave the EU, our future remains uncertain. The Prime Minister is not expected to invoke Article 50 until next year and we’re yet to see a precise outline of the type of deal that she will seek to achieve in the coming exit negotiations.
Some Remainers are still disappointed by the result and are openly calling for a second referendum. As the old saying goes, however, “what’s done is done” – we exercised our democratic rights, and the decision is conclusive. We’re leaving the European Union.
But what if, in the wake of Brexit, an initiative were proposed that offered economic and social prosperity for us all outside of the EU? What if Britain had the chance to take the lead on the most politically progressive project the world has ever seen, guaranteeing us (and future generations) the opportunity to live, work and study abroad, reunite with family and friends thousands of miles away, and reap the benefits of our ties to other Commonwealth nations?
A proposal too good to be true? Not in the slightest, because all this is achievable by introducing free movement for citizens between the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
The Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation (CFMO), which I had the privilege of founding, has campaigned for freedom of movement between these four nations since February 2015, and since we became internationally recognised, our support has continued to grow rapidly each and every day.
Over 160,000 people have signed our petition calling for free movement between these Commonwealth countries, and an independent poll of 206,000 people (conducted by CBC News in Canada) found that over 91.8 per cent support our proposals.
Our campaign has also received the backing of numerous politicians and diplomats across the world and, since the Brexit referendum, hundreds of thousands of people have visited our website eager to learn about the future of free movement between the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Of course, there are those who will say it shouldn’t be pursued, but allow me to explain why introducing free movement solely between these “CANZUK” nations would be the best thing for the UK and our Commonwealth partners.
Before the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973, we shared our borders with Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and each citizen of these nations was free to live and work in the UK (and vice-versa). Our countries harmoniously cooperated with a mutual understanding that all of our citizens were welcome, and in return we reaped the economic and social benefits of open borders and reciprocal rights to “indefinitely remain”.
Post-Brexit, we have the chance to reap those benefits once more.
Collectively, we would have the fourth largest economic area in the world, a combined GDP of $5.7 trillion, a GDP per capita value higher than that of the United States, and an unemployment rate of under 6 per cent. More so, citizens of the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada would have the opportunity to work, study and reside freely within these countries, while our businesses recruit the best international talent without the cost, risk and often lengthy delays experienced under present immigration controls.
And we only need to look to the EU for inspiration. If 28 member states with 508m people, over 60 different languages and numerous cultures and backgrounds can afford the rights to free movement for their citizens, then why can’t we?
We are four, proud, independent nations which share the same head of state, the same common law legal system, the same Western culture, the same respect for democracy and human rights, and even the same language – why should we pass on the political, social and economic opportunities presented by embracing free movement with each other?
Our CANZUK partners are eager to cooperate. A recent international poll found that 70 per cent of Australians, 75 per cent of Canadians and 82 per cent of New Zealanders would embrace a free movement initiative between our nations, all the while retaining our sovereignty and independence which the European Union could not afford us.
And would free movement pose an international security issue? Not at all.
As each of our four countries operates under the highly-effective “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance (together with the US), there would be a natural mechanism for monitoring security threats.
Our countries have always stood together throughout history as the leading nations of the Commonwealth and, to this day, our citizens share cultural and historical ties that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.
Now that we have voted to leave the European Union, we can advance the ever-growing diplomatic, economic and political connections that we already share through our Commonwealth ties, and embrace the countless benefits that free movement between the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada would bring.
It has always been the common sense thing to do, and with our support base growing rapidly every day, the United Kingdom’s future is looking very bright indeed.