Brexit, our Party`s Future and CANZUK (Canada, New Zealand, Australia and UK)

CANZUK and dependencies

On Friday the UK left the European Union and has now entered a transitional period, intended to develop a trade agreement with the EU and other areas in the world. I feel, therefore, that it is important to discuss what our party should be doing moving forward, and can see that there will be a good deal of debate over this and the options, most likely: rejoin as soon as possible, rejoin after a time or other alternatives. Here, I shall make the argument for the latter case and chiefly examine what I believe to be our next best option, a CANZUK (Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the UK) Agreement.

Firstly, why not rejoin the EU? My concern here is chiefly to do with Britain`s existing deal with the EU, that being with the rebate and certain opt-outs in regards to the Euro (another important point) and how, should the UK rejoin the EU as a new member, as is likely given the fact that we are leaving. Whilst membership of the EU is highly beneficial on its own, free trade and free movement with 27 nations, the agreement that the UK had previously, was especially beneficial for the country and losing this, again as would be the case, makes re-entering the EU less beneficial than it could have been. The Euro is also a key point here, the majority of the UK does not want to accept it, both in terms of the general population and political leadership. If the UK were to rejoin the EU, adopting the Euro would be a must and whilst there may be some delay, it is likely that it would happen. Some may argue that public opinion would have turned to facilitate rejoining anyway, but could this be said for using the Euro as well? It is unlikely. Hence, I feel that adopting such a stance would be harmful to both the Party`s election chances as well as cause a number of changes within the country, i.e. the Euro, that are not widely supported.

Secondly, what do I feel the party should be doing during this period, if not making the case for rejoining the EU? Chief amongst this is ensuring that the EU and UK achieve a comprehensive free trade agreement. Free trade is an inherently liberal idea and it makes sense, to me, for the party to be pushing for such an agreement with the reality that we are leaving the EU, ensuring that the economic impact of Brexit is limited and also ensuring that British goods are able to move freely into the EU and EU goods can move freely into Britain. Also, I feel that the party helping to maintain free movement between the Republic of Ireland and the UK is a key priority. There are a number of factors in favour of this as well, from a number of British and Irish citizens having family in each respective country to a number of individuals in both the Republic and Northern Ireland requiring movement across the border for work on a day-to-day basis. Thus, ensuring this continues is of great benefit to people in both countries. Ultimately, I feel that we should be ensuring that the UK achieves a good and comprehensive deal with the EU, ensuring that we do achieve a deal and do not have a No-Deal Brexit.

Thirdly, what else do I feel we could be doing? For me the answer here is simple. We should be pushing for a CANZUK Agreement. Why CANZUK? If this series of agreements were to be achieved the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand would form an economic area that is the world`s third largest, making up a trade value of US$3.5 Trillion. Access could be attained to the European, North American and Asian-Pacific markets for all of the prospective member states. This would mean that the trade and investment opportunities for the prospective member states, together with businesses and individuals within them, will be opened up. It is also very popular amongst the populations of the prospective members; 68% in the UK, 73% in Australia, 76% in Canada and 82% in New Zealand, meaning that people are enthused about this idea across the countries involved. There has, recently, been indications that the political leadership of prospective members are considering the idea, with Justin Trudeau last Friday stating that hopes are high for a trade agreement with Canada. This series of agreements could also form the basis for a larger set in the future, or a possible trade bloc. Ultimately I feel that backing this, for the party and the country, would be a great thing.

To conclude, avoiding a No-Deal Brexit (as we have already pushed for), building a good free trade EU deal, free movement in Ireland and achieving CANZUK are, I feel, some good aims for the party this year.

Statistics for CANZUK can be found here.

* Luke Binney is a member from Barnsley and is currently a student and a member of Liberal Reform.

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  • James Belchamber 4th Feb '20 - 11:14am

    CANZUK is a racist endeavour, with little grounding in economics or geopolitics. Literally the only reason to favour these nations is that they’re also full of white people who speak English, and no Liberal should see that as a reason.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 4th Feb '20 - 11:32am

    I agree with James Belchamber. This reeks of racism. These countries were known as “the white commonwealth” for obvious reasons. If the idea is to re-establish links with commonwealth countries then surely India must be included.

  • John Chandler 4th Feb '20 - 11:41am

    Pre referendum I used to think CANZUK was an interesting idea (mainly because I have links to Australia and NZ), but it really isn’t a replacement for losing membership of the largest trade bloc in the world, which is right on our doorstep. James makes an important point. It’s basically a “whites-only” subset of the Commonwealth, and doesn’t make any real sense.

    If we have to go with an option, why not EFTA? The compromise option that should have been investigated after the divided referendum result. Unfortunately, May set the red lines that ruled out pretty much every pragmatic option including that one.

  • Andrew Toye 4th Feb '20 - 11:45am

    I fear that advocating a CANZUK bloc would play into the hands of some of the more unpalatable hangers-on of the pro-Brexit side: the so-called “White Commonwealth” dream. If these countries, why not India, Pakistan, Nigeria, or other members of the commonwealth? (To involve India and Pakistan together would help alleviate tensions as the EU helped in Europe). A deal with Canada is complicated by the country’s membership of NAFTA.

  • Martin Boffey 4th Feb '20 - 2:38pm

    I don’t know whether CANZUK is a good idea economically or not. But to just call it a “racist” idea and claim that these countries are “just full of white people who speak English” is a lazy argument to make and contains more than a hint of the ignorance and bigotry than I would expect from those claiming to be Liberal.

    We have far more in common with Australia, Canada and New Zealand than that. Our political systems are very similar (Westminster systems), our education and professional qualification systems are highly comparable, and we have fundamentally similar liberal values as nations which should make it a lot quicker and easier to come to understandings than with more disparate nations. We are also already all members of one of the most important security cooperation networks in the world – the Five Eyes agreement. Why not build further on this cooperation in other areas?

    By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, quite a sizeable proportion of the the Canadian population actually speak French as a first language.

    And to suggest these countries are just “full of white people” is to ignore the diversity of populations in these countries – although admittedly more so in the metropolitan centres than the hinterland. They have benefited from several waves of migration over the last 50 years, just like the UK has. Having lived and worked in New Zealand I can tell you I worked with almost as many people who had moved there from East and South-East Asia, South Africa and the Pacific Islands as I did Pakeha (if you haven’t heard the term, look it up). Are there racist in New Zealand? Of course there are, but there is also an awful lot our country and others could learn from their example when it comes to trying to deal with the injustices of their past, to enshrine biculturalism in their social fabric and celebrate multiculturalism.

  • Martin Boffey 4th Feb '20 - 3:10pm

    Martin 4th Feb ’20 – 2:13pm
    “On economic grounds alone, the UK needs to be in the Single Market and Customs Union. It is that simple and it would also ensure trading partnerships around the world (such as with Canada).”

    It may be that simple on economic grounds, but it isn’t when it comes to matters of sovereignty and democratic accountability, and these things matter.

    It was bad enough when we were subject to EU law that we only had a limited say in making, but at least it passed the sniff test of pooled sovereignty and quasi-democratic legislative structures. I could live with it.

    But to become rule takers, with no say on our own trade policy and having our regulations dictated to by other countries? Sorry – I just can’t square that with Liberal or Democratic principles.

  • David Evershed 4th Feb '20 - 4:05pm

    Messrs Bellchamber and Martin-Royale (above) appear not to have spotted that the EU is full of white people or that the EU discriminates against immigrants from the mostly non white people in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

    They object to a CANZUK trade deal as racisat but why don’t they raise objections on the same grounds against a trade deal with the EU?

  • Martin Boffey 4th Feb ’20 – 2:38pm:
    …to just call it a “racist” idea and claim that these countries are “just full of white people who speak English” is a lazy argument to make and contains more than a hint of the ignorance and bigotry than I would expect from those claiming to be Liberal.


    Luke Binney 4th February 2020 – 11:05 am:
    This series of agreements could also form the basis for a larger set in the future, or a possible trade bloc.

    The UK is already negotiating a new Free Trade Agreement with Canada and has signed Mutual Recognition Agreements (to replicate existing EU arrangements) with Australia and New Zealand as a prelude to negotiating FTAs. All three countries are in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP), a Free Trade Agreement which also covers Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The UK Department for International Trade has already conducted a consultation with a view to joining the CPTTP…

    ‘Trade with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership’: 

    The Department for International Trade (DIT) received 149,968 responses to the consultation. All responses have been read and analysed by DIT and Ipsos MORI with summary documents available above.

    A separate government response will be published by DIT before potential negotiations start with members of the CPTPP.

    One wonders if the Lib Dem Party made a contribution to that?

    The UK has already signed an agreement with Chile, is currently negotiating with Singapore, and is about to start negotiations with Japan so it’s likely we’ll have FTAs with most of the CPTTP anyway.

    ‘UK trade agreements with non-EU countries’ [February 2020]:

    Find out which trade agreements with non-EU countries are in place during and after the transition period.

  • Andrew Lilico 4th Feb '20 - 5:52pm

    Does it not seem a bit odd to see a set of four countries that are equally developed, have about equal GDP per capita, equally have the Queen as head of state, equally have parliamentary systems of government, have about equal murder rates, and all have majority European-extraction populations, and think “The key thing that makes these similar – the only thing anyone could be interested in – is that they all have majority European-extraction populations”? You don’t find that a bit of a strange thing to do?

  • It would have to include India South Africa and Singapore. In fact here is an idea-call it The Commonwealth.

  • I know quite a bit about racism in the EU – my family have experienced it first hand, and it was a damned sight worse than anything we’ve had in this country.

    A few things to chew on.

    There is a higher proportion of ethnic minority MPs in both the New Zealand and Canadian parliaments than there are in the EU parliament.

    At the time of the referendum out of 751 MEPs, only 3 were black. In 2019, the UK had more BAME MEPs than any other country. When the UK left, it reduced the number of by 20%. All 6 of the South Asian MEPs were British.

    Yet, when Ursula von der Leyen described her new all-white cabinet as representing “Europe in all its diversity”, not a squeak do we hear on Lib Dem Voice. I don’t remember reading anything when she called the commission post dealing with immigration policy the “Commissioner for Protecting Our European Way of Life” either.

    Take this along with Guy Verhodstadt’s Empire speech – for which he was loudly cheered at the Lib Dem conference – and I’d think a little more carefully before shouting “racism” and pointing fingers… you might trip over and poke your finger in your own eye!

  • Bless all our Brexi’s and Lexi’s getting so worked up. Meanwhile in the real world Ryanair are recruiting staff to be based in Manchester


    1. Applicants must have the unrestricted right to live and work in the EU.
    2. You must be between 5 “2 (157 cm) and 6” 2 (188 cm) in height.
    3. You must be able to swim 25 meters unaided.
    4. It helps if you are hardworking, flexible and have an outgoing and friendly personality.
    5. Adaptable and happy to work a shift roster.
    6. Enjoy dealing with the public and have the ability to provide excellent customer service with a ‘can do’ attitude.
    7. Comfortable speaking and writing in English
    English with ease.
    8. A passion for travelling and meeting new people.

    You must be flexible to relocate as you could operate from any European Base within Ryanair Holdings PLC subject to operational requirements.

    Now can any of our Brexi’s and Lexi’s see the problem they have caused. Bit of a clue look at be able to relocate as you could operate from any European base (O and point 1, just in case you missed it). Let us hope anyone applying has an EU passport because anyone with just a British one might as well forget it. Well done my brave Brexi’s and Lexi’s and of cause you knew this would happen, you always claim you know everything about Brexit. Perhaps the sage of Wrexham should nip down and chant WTO at them, that will change their minds.

  • Jane Ann Liston 4th Feb '20 - 7:48pm

    There’s an awful lot of wet stuff between the UK and Canada, Australia and New Zealand. That means long sea voyages or more air freight. Both take longer than nipping across or beneath the Channel, so there will be added costs. And more air transportation is bad news for the planet.

  • Tony Venezia 4th Feb '20 - 8:33pm

    Empire 2.0.

  • James Belchamber 4th Feb '20 - 10:09pm

    I regret the boring chirping from people who are so eager to point out how distinct Canada, Australia and New Zealand are (with their unique cultural heritage, as well as both indigenous and multi-ethnic populations) that they don’t stop to consider that if such things were well-known CANZUK would lose it’s only real advantage.

    If you removed the (yes, beige-tinted) idea of cultural and ethnic kinship with these countries, it would make absolutely no sense to prioritise them in matters of trade. Ergo, either it is an idea founded in xenophobia or designed to pander to xenophobic people. The difference is only theoretical.

  • Luke Binney 4th February 2020 – 11:05 am:
    I feel that the party helping to maintain free movement between the Republic of Ireland and the UK is a key priority.

    Both the UK and Ireland are committed to maintaining the existing arrangements…

    ‘Irish and UK citizens’ Common Travel Area rights protected’ [December 2017]:

    The agreement reached in Brussels earlier this month “means the rights of Irish and British citizens under the Common Travel Area (CTA) are protected after the UK leaves the EU”, the foreign office declared.

    Irish and British nationals living in each other countries will not be required to apply for settled status to protect their entitlements in Ireland and the UK respectively, while the rights to work, study, access social security and public services will be preserved on a reciprocal basis for Irish and UK nationals.

    “There will be also be full protection and maintenance of the current arrangements for journeys between the Ireland and the UK,” it went on.

    The CTA facilitates the principle of free movement for British and Irish citizens between the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The CTA was formed before either Ireland or the UK were members of the EU.

  • If the UK can get a trade deal with Canada, Australia and New Zealand we should take one like a shot. We speak the same language and have common values, so of course it’s a good idea. I’d be more than happy to do trade deals with nearly anyone, but countries that share the UK’s values would always be my preference. To say that is racist is just plain wrong.

  • This is a ludicrous and reactionary idea. The British Empire is dead and will not be resurrected by any such means. The future of the United Kingdom is only with Europe.

  • After lots of bluster the UK will end up with reasonable trade deals with EU and most other countries, the economic effect will be more down to govn policies than exiting the EU and theoretical losses in GDP decades down the line will be lost to fluctuations in the business cycle, the state of Sterling and how tech innovation flows into the economy.

    The big loss for Brits will be the ability to easily work/live in 27 other countries and the ever expanding protection offered by EU institutions against both the govn (data especially) and big cartel-like companies.

  • Martin Boffey 5th Feb '20 - 11:29am

    I do find it ironic the extent to which those who spent the last three years trying to portray Leavers as “Little Englanders” are now themselves mutating into a bunch of “Little Europeans.”

    “The future of the United Kingdom is only with Europe”

    Remain/Leave was always a 50:50 choice for me. I am neither a Brexiteer nor a committed EUrophile. I’m an internationalist who is in favour of Free Trade. And now that Brexit has happened, for better or worse, we are where we are and we need to look to the future.

    There’s a whole world out there you know……..

  • malc – “To say that is racist is just plain wrong.” – ever heard of dog-whistle politics? CANZUK in itself is not racist, but it is commonly used by right-leaning politicians to pander to British Empire “fanboys”, who will interpret concept differently. If you follow Americab politics since 1980s, this trick is not new.

  • Martin 4th Feb ’20 – 2:13pm:
    On economic grounds alone, the UK needs to be in the Single Market and Customs Union.

    The ‘single market’ (the EU Internal Market) doesn’t make sense on economic grounds. Outside on WTO terms (pejoratively referred to as ‘no deal’) our exports to the EU would face around £5 billion in tariffs – that’s less than half of our membership fee. The ’single market’ gives us free access to the EU in the same way that the food in an ‘all-you-can-eat’ restaurant is free, after you’ve paid £30 to get in.

    ‘SHOCK EU 2019 REPORT: ‘UK benefits least from Single Market’ [July 2019]:

    The latest official EU Commission Single Market report of 2019, released yesterday, shows that the UK benefits LEAST out of the 28 member states when it comes to the EU’s ‘Single Market’ for goods.

    Being in the EU Customs Union prevents us from negotiating our own trade deals which can be optimised to suit the UK’s economy (e.g. better access for our service industries – something which has been of little interest to other EU members). It obliges us to impose tariffs on a vast range of goods even where we have no industry or producers to protect (e.g. citrus fruit) and 90% of the tariffs collected go to the EU. Essentially, the EU’s Common External Tariff is a reincarnation of the Corn Laws resulting in higher prices for people on low incomes. It’s also ludicrously complex…

    ‘This EU tariff takes the biscuit’ [August 2016]:

    If Brexit manages to get rid of this EU monstrosity, it will indeed be an achievement.

    On democratic grounds we voted to Leave both.

  • Andrew Tampion 6th Feb '20 - 8:34am

    Mark Wright and Martin Boffey speak for me. I believe that one of the many errors our party’s leaders have made is to assume that everyone who voted Remain was as fanatically pro EU as they were; when in fact many of “Remainers” like me did so on balance and where are are happy to accept the result whatever it was and move on. Until this is accepted we will be stuck in a Groundhog Day of our leaders own making.

  • Neil Sandison 6th Feb '20 - 11:02am

    Perhaps just humming along to a right wing agenda is not a Liberal Democrat strong point free trade /WTO style is where the ever stronger Tory/Brexit party want to go .
    Our arguement must be different we should argue for fair and sustainable trade that reduces our global foot print and enables emerging economies to grow in a sustaiable way having learnt the hard lessons of globalisation . So free ,fair and sustainable should be our distinct message .

  • Martin 5th Feb ’20 – 4:14pm:
    As I recall many who were advocating Brexit also said we would stay in the Single Market;

    The official Vote Leave campaign (and others such as Farage’s Leave.EU) made it clear we would leave the single market. It’s not possible to “Take Back Control” otherwise.

    You may well have voted in the hope to “Leave both”, but you have no democratic grounds for assuming all the others did.

    What a vote to Remain meant and what a vote to Leave meant were defined by the government prior to the referendum (being the only body who could “implement what you decide”). Leave meant leaving the EU Customs Union and the single market. They communicated this through numerous media interviews and articles, the official booklet sent to every house, and in statements and answers in parliament. The remain campaign, Britain Stronger in Europe, concurred and both made the claimed disadvantages of leaving the single market the central plank of their campaign…

    ‘Brexit vote was about single market, says Cameron adviser’ [November 2016]:

    “Leaving the European single market was “the instruction from the referendum,” according to one of David Cameron’s closest advisers.

    Ameet Gill, who served as the former prime minister’s director of strategy until earlier this year and campaigned for a Remain vote, said the Brexiteers’ commitment to leaving the free-trade bloc was the key issue of the campaign and Downing Street spent “months trying to hang that round Leave’s neck.”

    He said it was “a bit weird” for Labour and the Liberal Democrats to now claim that Prime Minister Theresa May doesn’t have a mandate for a “hard” Brexit outside the single market.

    Gill is particularly damning about the attempt to rewrite the history of the campaign by those who, like him, supported a vote to Remain.

    Here’s David Cameron, at the despatch box on June 15th. 2016 in the last PMQs before the Referendum, stating what both a Remain and a Leave vote would mean…

    As the leave campaigners and others have said, “Out” means out of the European Union, out of the European single market, out of the Council of Ministers — out of all those things…

  • John Marriott 6th Feb '20 - 5:33pm

    Speculation is alive and well and living on LDV. I see that ‘Jeff’ has become the new burr in the saddle, in his defence of Brexit. If only we all had his and ‘frankie’s’ certainty on both sides of the argument! I’d like to know how he gets so much published, when I’m often told that some of my contributions are too long!

    The plain truth is that nobody really knows what’s going to happen. Whether it’s here or over on the other side of the pond, the ‘Conservative’ block represents a solid 40% come hell or high water and the rest (Democrat, Labour, Lib Dem, Green etc) is just hopelessly divided. Any chance of moving on?

  • John Marriott 6th Feb ’20 – 5:33pm:
    I’d like to know how he gets so much published, when I’m often told that some of my contributions are too long!

    Hah! It took about 10 attempts to publish my previous post, editing incrementally.

  • Martin Boffey 7th Feb '20 - 2:32pm

    Guy Burton – I assume you are talking in the good old fashioned British Billions that nobody uses any more. That World Bank Dataset is only out by a factor of 1,000. The figures it shows are in trillions, not billions, but never mind – your point is still valid.

    The only thing is, it always somewhat baffles me that the assumption is our trade with the EU is going to somehow plummet from £291 billion per anum to zero the minute we leave the single market and the customs union. It’s just not going to happen. Obviously the subsequent friction is going to result in a fall in trade, so we need to try and take steps to offset the impact.

    It is not going to be politically viable to stay in the SM or the CU. We therefore need a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU. The next most helpful step after that in purely trade terms would be an FTA with the US. However, that presents its own political problems.

    Therefore, a much less contentious and relatively straight forward step either after or alongside the EU FTA would seem to be a CANZUK agreement, hopefully followed by FTA’s with Japan and South Korea. Such an arrangement would cover the majority of the OECD – which surely would be a good start?

  • Guy Burton 7th Feb ’20 – 10:32am:
    As I see it, CANZUK can’t possibly offer the same level of trade opportunities as the EU27 – and that’s not taking into account earlier arguments made here, especially the gravity models of trade which mean closer markets are vital (especially when it comes to perishables).

    It’s not to replace trade with the EU, but to augment it. We don’t sell to the EU Commission, we sell to the market of individual businesses and people and they will keep buying our goods and services. Even without a Free Trade Agreement a third of our exports would remain tariff free, the average tariff on manufactured goods is 2.7% and on agri-food 8.8%. Cars and some agricultural products are where our sales would be hit so it’s possible, absent a trade deal, we’d lose 5-10% of our exports. To some extent this would be compensated for by the lower pound against the euro which makes our goods more competitive. We’d be looking to replace this trade with exports outside the EU which is where the growth is…

    ‘UK exports outside the EU boosted by 6.3% in the last year to £376bn’ [December 2019]:

    New ONS figures show in the 12 months to September that UK exports outside the EU grew nearly five times as fast as exports to countries inside the bloc.

    EU producers of fruit and vegetables will continue to sell to us, but since we’ll now be able to import tariff free from non-EU suppliers they may need to reduce their prices to compete. There’s no good reason for us to impose a tariff on citrus fruit when we have no producers of our own to protect.

  • This is an interesting idea, but I would suggest membership of the CPTPP instead. The CPTPP involves Canada, Australia and New Zealand and although the UK is not in the target area, I believe we would still be welcomed. With Liberal Democrat leadership election coming up, I would like a candidate to endorse CPTPP membership if possible.

    Also, in regards to the EU and Brexit, I feel that alongside avoiding a No-Deal Brexit, we should be trying to push the government into a Swiss-style deal as close as we can by for example, advocating EFTA membership.

  • Burhan 8th Mar ’20 – 2:12pm:
    This is an interesting idea, but I would suggest membership of the CPTPP instead.

    See my post of 4th Feb ’20 – 5:34pm above:

    <…we should be trying to push the government into a Swiss-style deal as close as we can by for example, advocating EFTA membership.

    Implicitly rejected by the Referendum decision (requires free movement, EU Law, etc.).

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