Andrew Lilico, who is the Executive Director and Principal of Europe Economics, a well known policy consulting firm, and who was a pioneering advocate of the proposal for a CANZUK “union” of some sorts, has come out, again, in an article in Reaction, in which he tries to tie the idea of the CANZUK arrangement to both:
- The need for Conservatives to excite younger voters; and
- Andrew Scheer’s recent appointment of Erin O’Toole to be shadow Foreign Minister.
Now, caveat lector: I am a fan of some of what Dr Lilico says ~ I think that a proper CANZUK free trade area with nearly zero restrictions on the mobility and working rights of citizens of the four partners is a great idea. I think that there is plenty of room for cooperation and coordination in security and defence issues, including in coordinated defence procurement when it makes sense. I reject a few notions, like the “Union Navy” proposal, because they fail to make sufficient strategic sense.
In his latest contribution, aimed squarely at the British Conservatives, Andrew Lilico says that “Most ways to address that lead amongst the young would involve facilitating increased net immigration into the UK, and so risk alienating other votes. But there is one important policy that would not: CANZUK free movement … “CANZUK,” he explains, “is the name given to the Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom group of countries by diplomats and trade negotiators. There is currently an active movement in Canada to promote the idea that, post-Brexit, the CANZUK group should form a joint free trade agreement, migration agreement and security partnership. In the recent Canadian Conservative Party leadership election, the candidates that came first, third and fifth were all CANZUK advocates. The candidate that came third, Erin O’Toole, made CANZUK (including all three legs – trade, migration and security) one of the key planks of his campaign. This week he was appointed Shadow Foreign Affairs minister – as strong a pro-CANZUK signal as could be. Politicians in Australia and New Zealand have reacted positively to this Canadian initiative. Also this week, Australian Liberal Senator James Paterson proposed folding Canada and the UK into the Australia-New Zealand “Closer Economic Relations” treaty covering trade and migration. In New Zealand the Act NZ party has an official pro-CANZUK policy … [but] … In the UK, so far, by contrast, there has been little political support offered for the CANZUK concept. This could offer a political advantage to whatever party moves first, especially given the support for the idea amongst younger voters. YouGov did polling in 2015 on the idea of free movement amongst the CANZUK states. It found 58 per cent support (versus 45 per cent support for free movement with the US and 46 per cent support for free movement with the EU). Only 19 per cent of voters were opposed … [and] … According to YouGov, a CANZUK migration deal has majority support amongst every demographic — political intention (58 per cent of Conservative voters, 57 per cent of Labour and even 57 per cent of Ukip voters – of whom only 13 per cent support it within Europe); sex (62 per cent of men, 55 per cent of women); age (59 per cent of 18-24s through to 55 per cent of 60+ – of whom only 38 per cent support it within Europe); social grade (64 per cent of ABC1s, 51 per cent of C2DE – versus only 21 per cent of C2DEs opposed); and region (63 per cent of Londoners, 56 per cent of Northerners – versus only 43 per cent of Northerners favouring it with Europe) … [and] … In psephology terms, that’s a dream. Almost nothing not already done is as universally supported as that. Crucially, a CANZUK migration deal would not threaten to increase net migration. The reason is that unlike with most migration discussions, a CANZUK migration deal would not basically be solely about how easy it is for foreigners to get into Britain. A CANZUK migration is two-way, mutual. A CANZUK migration deal would be just as much about how Britons – and especially those younger Britons who might be the most interested – could go abroad. Australia already has more UK citizens living there than live in the entire EU27. Australia’s GDP per capita is more than a third higher than the UK’s, whilst those in Canada and New Zealand are within around 10 per or so of ours. The usual concerns about attracting one-way economic migration from very poor countries simply would not apply. We could have a CANZUK migration deal and still pursue reductions in net migration to the UK … [further] … Australia and New Zealand have already agreed to be the first countries to do trade deals with us as soon as we can set our own trade policy. Canada has said it would like the transition from the current deal via the EU to a new post-Brexit deal to be seamless. Australia and New Zealand have both raised the issue of a migration deal.“
I suspect that some of those numbers about voters’ opinion on immigration and mobility would hold up, pretty well, in Canada (hors de Québec) too. But, as excited as many young voters might be about the prospect of being able to travel, study and work, more freely, in other “old Commonwealth” countries, it will not address many young voters concerns about Canada’s foreign, defence and aid policies. Free(er) trade is neither sexy nor a vote getter amongst younger voters. But, as Dr Lilico points out, immigration is a double edged sword. Conservatives need to propose an integrated suite of polices that:
- Serve Canadians’ selfish interests and the broader national interest;
- Offer concrete help to the poorest of the poor; and
- Can be seen, by younger voters, to be doing some good.
If a CANZUK deal that includes free(er) trade and mobility rights can be squeezed into that framework then so much the better. But, and it’s a Big BUT, a CANZUK agreement cannot and should not be an end in itself. We do not want this, on the right … that will not work and it will not appeal to much of anyone who matters. Instead we need to look at the whole of the world, without regard to race or creed, and make cooperative arrangements ~ trade, commerce, security, aid and cooperation ~ with those who share our core values. The goal is to expand trade, commerce, cooperation and, consequentially, peace and prosperity; it is NOT to recreate the British Empire.
The CANZUK initiative should be embraced by both Conservatives and Liberals: after all it is, in many ways, an extension of Mitchell Sharp’s “third option“ which was to “develop and strengthen the Canadian economy and other aspects of its national life and in the process reduce the present Canadian vulnerability” through, inter alia, trade diversification abroad and an industrial strategy at home which emphasized specialization. The third option was the centre-piece of Pierre Trudeau’s foreign policy in the mid 1970s. Canada’s foreign policy should not look, simply, at the USA, the UK, the EU, CANZUK, NATO, the OAS or the Commonwealth and la Francophonie as isolated “silos.” Some organizations are chock-a-block full of potential friends and trading partners, others have few nations that share almost any our values, but, scattered through them all we have potential allies and friendly trading partners: Israel and Jordan, the Netherlands and Norway, the Philippines and Malaysia and, of course, socio-economic giants like India and China. We can be “helpful” to others and advance our own self-interest at the same time.
Canada should be open to fair trade with almost anyone … even with repressive tyrannies like Russia and Saudi Arabia; we should be open to giving aid to those who honestly seek peace and the betterment of their own people and we should look for enhanced security and defence cooperation, including even coordinated procurement of military ships, weapon systems and aircraft, with traditional friends amongst the democratic states of the world, starting with our CANZUK friends.