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Our Mission Statement

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Uniting the Realms. Emboldening the Commonwealth

“We believe the Commonwealth Realms should form a union for the benefit of their peoples.”

“We believe the Commonwealth is a force for good in the world and should be renewed and strengthened to safeguard its future.”

Join the Society for free today at www.unitedcommonwealthsociety.org to show your support.

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Realm Union in Action: British-Irish Council

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A new series exploring, analysing and discussing examples of a “Realm Union in action” or discussing possible concepts and ideas from other sources.

Our first concept and example of a “Realm Union in action” is the little known British-Irish Council. Their Twitter background states, “…eight Governments working together on key areas of mutual interest. UK, IRL, SCO, WAL, NI, IOM, GSY, JSY.”

Formed by the international British-Irish Agreement 2nd December 1999, between the British and Irish governments, its stated aim is to, “promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships among the peoples of these islands.”

Following the turbulent relations leading up to the Good Friday Agreement, the British-Irish Council is quite possibly one of the greatest examples of governments working together for peace, prosperity and harmony.

It is this setting that it is such a good example that the Commonwealth Realms can follow. If two governments with such differences of opinion can successfully work together then why could a similar Realm Union, Realm Council or United Realms not work for the mutual benefit of Her Majesty’s peoples?

The basic operation of the council is the same as that proposed as an early stage in the Society’s proposals. The heads of the nine governments meet at bi-annual summits with additional ad hoc ministerial meetings attended by appropriate ministers and representatives depending on the topic being discussed. A standing secretariat is based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Despite impressions given in the media the recent referendum result in Britain was discussed at an extraordinary summit meeting in July 2016. Issues such as the border with Britain and Ireland were discussed and agreements made that there would be no need for a “hard border”. The frenzy stirred in the media about what would happen post-brexit at the border therefore was grossly overstated.

Taking this example forward a “Council of the Realms” could meet annually or bi-annually to discuss mutual issues such as the economy, trade, common realms travel area, employment, defence and many more. Prime ministers of each realm can look forward to meeting their counterparts and building further their relationships. Throughout the year ministers of similar ministries can meet to further discussion common areas of interest. Then at Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings or even international bodies such as the United Nations or the World Trade Organisation, the Commonwealth Realms can show a unified approach to issues and add weight to decisions.

United Commonwealth Realms passport - Barbados

The Realm Union could discuss common passport standards and designs. [Credit R. Moore, UCS Member]

What I believe is one of the British-Irish Council’s best features is that it has allowed the devolved administrations and Crown Dependencies to have a regular say in affairs. This same feature can be applied in a Realm Union or CANZUK (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom) set up. The dependencies and overseas territories, and if desired, Australian states and Canadian provinces, could be represented.

The “Realm Union in action” series will be updated as our work progresses. I am very excited to have this opportunity to explore in more detail the Society’s proposals and ideas and hope that after reading them it gives our members and supporters hope for the future.

Jon-Paul Teasdale – Vice-Chair and United Kingdom Representative

References: www.britishirishcouncil.org; www.wikipedia.com

Possible terms: Realm Union; Realm Council; United Realms; Council of the Realms

A Common Future

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Article from United Commonwealth Society member, and Editor-in-Chief of The Odd Historian, Abdur Rafay looking at the advantages of closer working between the nations of the Commonwealth.

With the signing of the London Declaration of 1949, the modern Commonwealth of Nations came into being. Comprised then of eight original members, it today represents 52 diverse nations united together in language, in the shared values of democracy and the rule of law. Barring the United Nations, never before has history seen such a voluntary association of this many sovereign states, accounting for 1/6 of the World’s GDP, a quarter of its landmass and nearly a third of its entire population. Ever since its inception, there have been strengthening movements calling for greater integration between the Commonwealth nations. Today in the era of globalization, the demands hold more feasibility than ever before.

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Commonwealth flag (Copyright 2014 L. T. J. Seaford)

As globalization dissembles the states from within and outside, chipping away at its autonomy and sovereignty, for non-hegemonic states the formation of a political-economic union is crucial to retaining some form of control over the forces of the free market. This is why, in the last twenty years, we have seen the emergence of many such organizations (AU, USAN, and CIS) and greater integration within existing ones (ASEAN, EU).

However, the Commonwealth is most suited to benefit from the changing environment. Its unique structure enabling an unprecedented level of cross-regional connectivity at a grass root level. Unlike the EU and other economic blocs with an emphasis on centralism and intergovernmental cooperation, the Commonwealth is a much more organic network with a bottom up approach, allowing various interactions to take place at non-governmental levels. This novel structure allows for greater integration and flexibility without the need of undermining the sovereignty of its member states.

Another inherent advantage for the Commonwealth lies in the strong similarities in the member states. Shared cultural links, legal procedures and a common working language means that the flow of information, goods and services is both more economical and faster between members relative to non-member countries.

For Britain – post Brexit –the opportunity is ripe to increase its focus towards the Commonwealth regardless of what type of settlement is struck with the EU Single Market. Before joining the European Economic Community, Britain’s trade with the Commonwealth was four times more than that with the mainland, accounting nearly half of its exports. Today it’s less than one-fifth. With the African and Asian markets growing rapidly and opening to new investments, re-orienting towards the Commonwealth will be vital to the continual prosperity of the United Kingdom. Similar can be said for other major Commonwealth economies.

Within the Commonwealth lies great potential for the benefit of all members. Old ties and legacies can only go so far. We must look beyond just trade deals and make effort to support polices that strengthen the bond between each member states, eventually paving the way for the creation of a formal union.

Many obstacles exist to the formation of such a Union, chief among them the issue of human rights, border issues and disparity in incomes. However, Europe was facing the same problems when the EEC was forming. Obstacles are addressed through co-operation between states. A set of common goals have to be realized and a framework made for them to be implemented. A will has to be present towards greater integration of the Commonwealth with aims towards freer movement and a single market. The process can be gradual, starting with the Commonwealth realms, eventually incorporating other member states as they qualify in meeting the desired requirements.

With the uncertainty surrounding the EU and the United States in political decline, the role of an integrated Commonwealth would be crucial safeguarding the principles of democracy and free trade. It is time to make efforts to pave the way towards a common future.

Member Abdur Rafay

Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief The Odd Historian

Britain’s Last Rescue

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The debate of Britain’s continuing membership of the European Union (EU) is entering its final stages. Many people have already posted their postal votes, the British government has posted its pamphlet explaining the government’s position, the Electoral Commission has posted its impartial guide to the EU referendum and people are planning their day to get to their polling stations.

BrexitThe voting for the referendum has been restricted to British, Irish and Commonwealth nationals as per the restrictions during a general election, as no doubt equal voting rights to EU nationals would skew the results of a referendum that will change the face of Britain, and her relationship with the world, far into the future.

It is the Commonwealth’s role in this referendum that I wish to discuss.

The Society believes that Britain’s continuing membership of the EU is stifling improvements in the relationship between the Commonwealth and the British people.

Before Britain entered what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) assurances were made to the Commonwealth by the Macmillan and Heath governments that their relationship with Britain would not suffer. They were told Britain was only joining a “common market”, now single market, and that through Britain’s membership the Commonwealth would benefit.

During the 50s and 60s Britain’s application to join the EEC was repeatedly rejected. At the 1963 press conference in Paris Charles De Gaulle said,

“[T]he question…[is] whether Great Britain can now place herself like the Continent and with it inside a tariff which is genuinely common, to renounce all Commonwealth preferences, to cease any pretence that her agriculture be privileged, and, more than that, to treat her engagements with other countries of the free trade area as null and void — that question is the whole question.”

Reading this you would not be wrong to suggest that Britain made her bed and must now suffer the consequences. That she put the Commonwealth second to her economic wellbeing and therefore shouldn’t expect loyalty or salvation from the family that she turned her back on, but that is looking at the situation from the wrong perspective.

The Commonwealth is not a political union. Some of us may want it to be so, but at this present moment it isn’t. It isn’t a trading bloc or a free trade area. It is a family of sovereign independent nations who voluntarily associate themselves with each other under a shared figurehead, or, in the case of the realms, a shared head of state.

The Commonwealth shares a bond that few other organisations or associations have, or on the same kind of scale. Families literally intertwine with the history of the Commonwealth due to mass emigration (through choice or force), settling and trade.

The 23rd June 2016 is Britain’s final D-day. This is a final rallying call to all those eligible to vote in the referendum and those who can influence those who are voting to vote to leave the European Union. Britain’s enemy this time is not a rival Empire, or an evil dictatorial regime – both of these can at least be seen. Instead, Britain’s enemy is a treasonous, corrupt undercurrent of politicians and business leaders who are prepared to sell the British people and their rights to an institution that makes no secret of its intentions. Apathy and ignorance on the part of British voters is also the enemy as we voted these people in. It was the British people that believed Macmillan and Heath the first time around.

We, the British people, may not fully know it but we need our Commonwealth family to save us, from ourselves. We are our worst enemy.

So, what could be so bad if Britain remained a full member of the EU? Why should the Commonwealth be even the slightest bit bothered? The EU is a template for other parts of the world. There has already been talk of the North American Free Trade Agreement becoming a North American Union. Canada would be in the same position Britain is now. The Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean would probably join this same union with loss of the sovereignty they fought so hard to gain from Britain.

Unless Britain shows the world that she is prepared to risk it all and go it alone again then you will find that the Commonwealth will lose her strength as nations are slowly will be stripped of their sovereignty as they join similar unions.

The battle for Britain in this referendum is the Commonwealth’s chance to make a stand for our shared way of life. Our common law systems, systems of government, language, traditions and culture.

If the Commonwealth can make one final push to help influence the vote, to let the British people know that things will be okay, then we might stand a chance at winning.

Jon-Paul Teasdale
Vice Chair, UK Council Representative
22 June 2016

United Commonwealth Passports

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UCS member Russell Moore kindly submitted these eyecatching proposals for what passport covers for a Commonwealth realm union could look like. We greatly appreciate the hard work he put into them!

United Commonwealth Realms passport - Barbados United Commonwealth Realms Passport - Jamaica United Commonwealth Realms - PNG

Imperial Federation: After 130 Years (Part 3: Internal Developments)

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<<First | Last | Next >>

This is the third part of a multi-part series studying the development of the Imperial Federation League, inspiration for the United Commonwealth Society. The continuing thanks of the UCS Council and membership goes to Council Secretary Edward Harris for his tireless work creating this document.

In the last instalment, we looked at how external circumstances – especially perceived threats to security and peace of mind in the Dominions – had a significant effect on the attitude of people and especially politicians towards their place within the world system, which at this time was still largely a British system. Indeed, for some people, these external factors by themselves were reason enough for imperial consolidation. The Australian R. Langton, for example, wrote floridly in the 1900s about Dominion contributions to the Boer War:

“Thus the noble spirit of patriotism bound together the British Colonies with their motherland, just as twenty-four centuries ago the ancient Greek colonies, a mere handful of people, stirred by the same spirit, banded themselves to withstand the mighty army of Xerxes…a stupendous struggle which saved for Europe her arts, her civilisation, her liberty.”

Australian Commonwealth Horse

“Troops of No 1 Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse, in the Transvaal.” (Australian War Museum

Even if statements such as these served only to mask a more cynical agenda for securing some British quid pro quo for co-operation, this only shows that the Canadians and Australians of 100 years ago were much less squeamish about deploying their traditional international connections in support of their national objectives. Part of the explanation for this was the sheer diversity of social, political and economic motives behind the Dominions’ enthusiasm for Empire in the later nineteenth century.

An important part of the explanation for this is that internal as well as external dynamics encouraged many colonial Britons towards an imperial rather than national set of aspirations. While this involves some reflection on each Dominion’s particular situations, it is important to our understanding of the Federalist movement. Read more

2015 Pan American Games

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The United Commonwealth Society would like to send its best wishes to the athletes representing the Commonwealth in the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. The Commonwealth nations below are being represented:

Commonwealth Realms and British Overseas Territories

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Canada – Host Nation
  • Cayman Islands
  • Grenada
  • Jamaica
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Commonwealth Republics

  • Domenica
  • Guyana
  • Trinidad & Tobago

2015 Pan American Games logo

An Evening with Tim Hewish and Commonwealth Exchange

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Canadian supporters of the United Commonwealth Society will soon have an opportunity to meet their fellow enthusiasts and learn some of the latest developments from the co-founder of the leading Commonwealth think tank.

Tim HewishTim Hewish, Executive Director of Commonwealth Exchange, will be speaking to an intimate audience at an event hosted jointly with the Toronto branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society. Among the topics of discussion will be their latest publications, Commonwealth’s Call to Duty and How to Solve a Problem Like a Visa.

Our event will be held on Tuesday, July 14th from 6:00pm to 9:00pm at:

Wallace Gastropub
1954 Yonge Street (near Yonge and Davisville)
Toronto, ON  M4S 1Z4

Attendance is free. If you wish to dine during the evening, you may pay your server directly. Space is limited, so book fast. Reserve your place at http://commonwealth-exchange.eventbrite.ca/.

Commonwealth ExchangeUnited Commonwealth SocietyRoyal Commonwealth Society of Canada

Imperial Federation: After 130 Years (Part 2: The Changing Dominions)

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<<First | Last | Next >>

This is the second part of a multi-part series studying the development of the Imperial Federation League, inspiration for the United Commonwealth Society. The continuing thanks of the UCS Council and membership goes to Council Secretary Edward Harris for his tireless work creating this document.

In the last installment, we introduced the origins of the movement to integrate the four core nations of the English-speaking Commonwealth, showing that changing economic and geopolitical realities, combined with the increasing political maturity of the Dominions, rendered the old way of thinking about the Empire obsolete. Instead of a hierarchical or ‘hub-and-spokes’ model, with the United Kingdom at the centre and a number of lesser dependencies orbiting it, many people began to think of Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand with a sense of collective nationhood. In this instalment, we will take a closer look at some of the concerns and aspirations of the mature Dominions.

A postcard issued to mark the visit to Australia of the US Navy's Great White Fleet (1908)

A postcard issued to mark the visit to Australia of the US Navy’s Great White Fleet (1908)

In the case of Australia, for instance, many of these concerns will be familiar to students of changing power relationships in the Pacific today, or during the Cold War. Australians realised that the United States would soon be the main power in the Pacific, and were keen to ensure that Australia could also be a key player, as they could never secure Australia’s future without significant influence on the geopolitics of that region.

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News of the Realms is here!

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The first issue of News of the Realms has been sent out to UCS members. If you would like to join the Society and receive a copy of this and future issues, please visit our membership page and become a registered member. An email address will be required.

News of the Realms