It's Time to Build our Commonwealth Bonds

March 9, 2020

The Coldstream Guards with the Flags of the Commonwealth at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, 19-4-18.

 

This article was published on 9 March 2020, which was Commonwealth Day. Commonwealth Day falls on the second Monday of every March and was originally called 'Empire Day'.

 

Empire Day was introduced in the UK in 1904 by the Anglo-Irish politician Reginald Brabazon, the 12th Earl of Meath, "to nurture a sense of collective identity and imperial responsibility among young empire citizens". In schools, morning lessons were devoted to "exercises calculated to remind (the children) of their mighty heritage". (1)

 

In this article we advocate some basic economic, cultural and social policies to help strengthen the bonds of the Commonwealth today.

 

Reginald Brabazon "Patriot and Philanthropist" is commemorated with this statue at Lancaster Gate, London. Pic AFFG 18-6-17.

 

What is the Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth comprises 54 countries including the UK, across all six inhabited continents. The members have a combined population of almost 2.5 billion people, almost a third of the world population, of which almost 1.4 billion live in India. It contains developed, developing and emerging economies. (2)

 

All the member countries of the Commonwealth, except Mozambique and Rwanda, are former members of the British Empire, or developed out of former members of the British Empire, or are dependencies of such countries.

 

Although it is no longer termed "the British Commonwealth" – and although it was rebranded to "the Commonwealth" – it is still undeniably a creation of the United Kingdom and it continues to exist today because the UK is at the heart of it.

 

It is an institution created by Britain, which exercises a Force for Good in the world today.

 

Her Majesty the Queen is the official "Head of the Commonwealth", a symbolic role only, which exercises a unifying effect.

 

Of the 54 countries, the Queen is the official Head of State of 16 of them (including the UK). These are called the Commonwealth Realms.

 

In addition to the 54 Commonwealth countries there are also 14 British Overseas Territories (BoTs). These are countries which are still within the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom (they never left the Empire). The Queen is Head of State of these, as well. (3)

 

The Scottish Nationalists like to emphasise the worst of the past without realising that today the UK enjoys immense goodwill worldwide, especially among those countries which have this connection to the UK.

 

The Aim of our Policies

To Reach Out to the Commonwealth and Develop the Massive Goodwill that Exists World-Wide for Britain – the British Wealth that we have in Common in order that we all may Benefit.

 

When we speak about developing the Commonwealth we are speaking about looking at ways of developing closer economic, cultural and social ties with the 53 other countries of the Commonwealth, and particularly the 15 Commonwealth Realms where the Queen is Head of State.

 

In the latter regard, it seems particularly important to support, and favour, those countries where the Queen is the actual Head of State!

 

How to do that?

 

ECONOMIC

a) COMMONWEALTH TRADING PREFERENCES

As we always say, the British economy is one of the largest in the world. It will prosper outside the EU where opportunities abound when we base a programme upon trade with 194 other countries world-wide, instead of only 27 in the EU.

 

There is no need for any kind of political union. We're talking economics here. Commonwealth countries will naturally be interested in anything which works economically to their advantage; so that's a starting point.

 

We used to have something called "Commonwealth Preference" prior to the Common Market. It is another trading option which we should explore, and which the UK is well placed to organise. Of course, none of that will stop us continuing to trade with the Continent.

 

The economist Ruth Lea wrote in 2012:

 

It has moreover been estimated that business costs are 10-15% lower for Commonwealth countries trading with one another compared with Commonwealth countries trading with non-Commonwealth countries of comparable size and GDP. This benefit, the 'Commonwealth advantage', reflects shared history and commonalities of language, law and business practice. It should act, other things being equal, as a major incentive to intra-Commonwealth trade. (4)

 

Let's examine the figures.

 

According to this House of Commons Report published on 6-2-20 in 2018:

 

- UK exports to the Commonwealth were worth £59.8 billion; British imports from the Commonwealth were £55.5 billion.

- The UK had a trade surplus with the Commonwealth of £4.2 billion – a deficit in goods was more than offset by a surplus in services.

- The Commonwealth accounted for 9.3% of UK exports – roughly the same as UK exports to Germany.

- The Commonwealth accounted for 8.1% of UK imports – roughly the same as UK imports from the Netherlands.

- UK trade with the Commonwealth was heavily focused on five countries – Australia, Canada, India, Singapore and South Africa; combined these countries accounted for 73% of UK exports to the Commonwealth and 66% of UK imports from the Commonwealth.

 

The figure of 9.3% of exports to the Commonwealth compares with 45% of exports to the EU in 2018, according to this House of Commons report on EU trade published on 16-12-19.

 

Clearly then, trade with the Commonwealth is not any kind of "replacement" for trade with the EU (which will continue anyway). So we have to be realistic!

 

However, it is possible that deals with Commonwealth countries which were difficult under the EU tariff regime may become more possible now that Britain is out of the EU.

 

Scottish Speciality Foods have huge potential in the British Diaspora both in the Commonwealth and the USA. Whisky has a massive potential market in India.

 

What is the first start?

 

We should establish a Commonwealth Council to Promote Co-operation and Trade.

 

In that regard, it is important to mention that any deals must not prejudice producers in the UK, who have hitherto been protected against such competition when they were in the EU.

 

CULTURAL AND SOCIAL

Here is a symbolic act which could say a lot:

 

b) HAVE A SPECIAL ENTRY GATE for the Commonwealth Realms, and British Overseas Territories

This idea comes from Philip Benwell, the National Chairman of the Australian Monarchist League – monarchist.org.au – and sent out in its Email Newsletter for May/June on 18-5-17.

 

In addition to the UK, the 15 Commonwealth Realms of which the Queen is Sovereign are: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, The Bahamas, and Tuvalu.

 

The 14 British Overseas Territories where the Queen is also Head of State are: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, St Helena Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

 

When citizens of these countries arrive in the UK, they are not admitted to the British citizens' queue but have to queue with all the other foreigners. That is almost like a snub!

 

The idea is to show respect to Britain's former Dominions and its present Commonwealth Realms, and British Overseas Territories, by establishing a separate entry gate for non-British "Subjects of the Queen" on entry into the Kingdom.

 

It would send a small, but influential message of solidarity between the UK and its Commonwealth Realms and BoTs, if they were allowed to queue in this way.

 

As Benwell says, "I am not talking about open borders or visa stipulations, but solely about showing respect to Subjects of the Queen when we enter the United Kingdom."

 

It would send "a symbolic gesture of friendship and solidarity towards these countries".

 

c) EXCHANGE PROGRAMMES for Commonwealth Realms and British Overseas Territories

We don't advocate promoting "free movement" of people from the Commonwealth to Britain since that could quickly get out of hand, considering there are almost 2.5 billion of them!

 

However, Exchange Programmes for students and young people could be encouraged.

 

For starters, we could be doing these things with the Commonwealth Realms and British Overseas Territories – if not with the rest of the Commonwealth.
 

Importantly, though, they must be stamped with a British Stamp, in the sense that this is seen to be something which is deliberately being done to encourage connections between Britain and the Commonwealth, and BoTs, or else the relevance of the British relationship will be lost.

 

Give it a name like the British Overseas Territories and Commonwealth Realm Exchange Programme – so you know this isn't run by the SNP.

 

This is certainly not something that should be 'devolved' to the SNP/Scottish 'Government', who will simply rebrand it, or hold it out, as their own – as they do with the British Treasury's 'City Deals'.

 

This point must be emphasised. All these British-wide schemes will get co-opted and misrepresented by the so-called Scottish 'Government'. Therefore, they will have to be clearly branded and implemented in a way which the SNP/Scottish 'Government' cannot exploit for its separatist agenda.

 

The Flags of the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. Pic: AFFG, 17-6-17.

 

d) DESIGNATED DAYS OF COMMONWEALTH FLAG FLYING

Here's a cultural thing which should be encouraged. Government buildings should fly the Flags of the Commonwealth Realms and the British Overseas Territories, on their particular National Days. That gets people gradually aware of the fact that these places exist in the first place, and that they are related to the UK. It helps to widen our perspective.

 

It helps to locate the United Kingdom within a worldwide network of friendship. It helps us see the value of the UK in the World. This element has been entirely missing in Unionist arguments hitherto (except those made by A Force For Good).

 

These are things which Councils can do without Government permission anyway, if they are so minded.

 

e) REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

Talking of friendship, let's support the re-incorporation of the Republic of Ireland into the Commonwealth. Let's hold out a welcoming hand and see how it's received. Let's start talking about it, at least!

 

LOOKING to the FUTURE

The goodwill and international reach which Britain enjoys, as a consequence of the Commonwealth, is a very precious possession and something we celebrate.

 

It is something we don't want to damage – by breaking up the UK!

 

Rather, it is something that we want to develop as we face the future together.

 

We want the United Kingdom to work with these countries for the mutual benefit of us all.

 

The United Kingdom is very well placed to play its part in such a great international endeavour; to be a force for good upon the world stage.

 

Making a case for the UK includes and should involve all the wonderful people throughout this World, who believe in us.

 

Scotland needs to be at the centre of that exciting opportunity, working as a full member of the UK, providing inspiration, for the good of all.

 

We take a very positive view of the new era we are entering of "British Independence". If we make it a success – and there is no reason whatsoever to presume it will not be a success – then we can see off the separatists, strengthen the United Kingdom, and help benefit the World.

 

You won't read this sort of thing anywhere else. If you appreciated our pro-British Advocacy and Action then we need your help to keep doing it! Please become one of our monthly Union Supporters from as little as £1.15 a week (£5 a month) here.

 

The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow was a Great event which helped to bring home to many people the world-wide British Wealth that we have in Common. Pic AFFG 21-6-14.

 

References:

(1) Reginald Brabazon is to be admired for his educational initiative in this regard. He is buried in the graveyard of the Church of Ireland parish church in the village of Delgany, County Wicklow, along with his wife and son. There are some streets and squares in The Coombe, Dublin named in his honour: Reginald Street, Reginald Square and Brabazon Square. On 18 December 1958, Harold Macmillan announced in Parliament that the name of Empire Day would be changed to Commonwealth Day; and the date was moved from the 24th May.

 

(2) Member nations of the Commonwealth

wikipedia.org/wiki/Member_states_of_the_Commonwealth_of_Nations

 

(3) The Commonwealth Realms

wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_realm

 

The British Overseas Territories

wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Overseas_Territories

 

(4) Ruth Lea, "The Commonwealth should play a much bigger role in Britain's future", 7-10-12 at tinyurl.com/yc933rgp

 

Further Reading on our Legacy Site:

Alistair McConnachie, Looking Towards the British Wealth in Common Games 31-8-12.

 

Alistair McConnachie, Union Jacks at Glasgow 2014: The Enduring Britishness of the Commonwealth 14-4-14.

 

Alistair McConnachie, Scotland would have to Leave Commonwealth if Nats Won 22-7-14.

 

You won't read this sort of thing anywhere else. If you appreciated our pro-British Advocacy and Action then we need your help to keep doing it! Please become one of our monthly Union Supporters from as little as £1.15 a week (£5 a month) here.

 

 

 

 

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