After a successful first meeting of the UK Regional (UKR) Officers, held on 26th June 2014, there are some changes to announce to the organisation of the UKR Office.
First I would like to welcome Andrew Wright as our new Northern Ireland Officer. He took up his appointed post from 22nd June 2014.
Due to other commitments Kevin Ruiz is no longer able to fill the Gibraltar Officer position. The Council wishes him well in his endeavours. As our Gibraltar Officer position is now vacant we will advertise the position again shortly with our other vacancies.
To summarise the UKR Office consists of the following:
Jon-Paul Teasdale – UK Region Councillor / UK Regional Representative
James Nilsson-Forrest – England Officer
Robert Clayton – Isle of Man Officer
Andrew Wright – Northern Ireland Officer
More information of the Officer’s activity will become available as they develop through our usual membership channels.
If you are not already a member click here to visit our membership page and find out how to join.
Many people at the time would not have realised the significance of the 10th of March this year, but thanks to an inspiring initiative by the Virdee Foundation’s `Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth’, people were given a reason and a means to celebrate our great Commonwealth family. Across the British Isles, Commonwealth flags were flown and town and city halls up and down the country held special flag raising ceremonies to share in the celebrations.
By a chance encounter with the Councillor organising the event (Councillor C. Ready), I was invited to Wigan Council’s planned event on the steps of Wigan town hall. I was burning with pride that my hometown was joining in the first national celebration of the event. I got to meet the brilliant Jenny Meadows, the medal winning athlete competing in this year’s Commonwealth Games, as well as Lord Smith, the leader of Wigan Council and the Mayor of Wigan Councillor Rotherham. Read more
Canada-Caribbean relations was a hot topic in the media and Facebook/Twitterverse this past week.
The most topical reason for the surge of interest was the visit of Turks & Caicos Islands Premier Rufus Ewing to Ottawa for a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. An offer from Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall to join the prairie province, later matched by Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz, launched a flurry of activity on Twitter. Pundits and amateur observers alike speculated whether the long-sought goal of Canadian annexation of the Islands would finally be achieved. Read more
Following the creation of the United Kingdom Regional Office an advert was posted in the member areas for Officers to represent the Society within the UK region. From the applicants and available members three Officer positions have been created.
I am pleased to announce that the following members have been appointed to be Officers within the UK Regional Office:
England Officer – James Nilsson-Forrest
Gibraltar Officer – Kevin Ruiz
Isle of Man Officer – Robert Clayton
Once the Officers have settled into their roles a further advert will be published for the remaining positions available.
I would like to thank all those that took the time to be involved in the process and I wish the new Officers good luck in their appointed roles.
Representative – UK Regional Office
The idea of a Commonwealth realm political union has come up in the news in recent days.
The surge of interest was prompted by the awarding of the IEA Brexit Prize. The award, granted by the Institute of Economic Affairs, sought the best blueprint for the United Kingdom after its proposed departure from the European Union.
Andrew Lilico, in his latest blog entry with the Daily Telegraph on the day of awarding, proposed a quasi-EU union of the CANZUK nations: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Read his entry “The key Brexit question: who will our new pals be?” here.
Our friends at Commonwealth Exchange earned third place for their entry “Old Friends, New Deals”. Find a link to their submission on their website. We would like to offer them our warmest congratulations for their achievement!
Among the entrants was United Commonwealth Society member, and longtime Anglosphere and Commonwealth advocate, James Bennett. Mr. Bennett’s entry also advocated realm union as an alternative to continued EU membership. Although ultimately eliminated, we have not seen the last of his submission. Watch this space for more news as it comes!
The Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Agreement (ANZCERTA) was signed on 28 March 1983, paving the way for a much closer economic relationship between the two Pacific realms and serving as an example to be copied by other Commonwealth nations.
Brent Cameron, a longtime UCS member and advisor for the Commonwealth trade advocacy organisation Commonwealth Exchange discusses the potential for Canada to join the agreement in “Towards CANZCERTA?”.
Click the image below to visit the Commonwealth Exchange site.
This speech was delivered by David Haisell, our Chair, at the Royal Commonwealth Society of Canada’s Commonwealth Day flag-raising ceremony at the Ontario Legislative Building, Queen’s Park, Toronto, on 10 March 2014.
Mr. Chairman, fellow Commonwealth enthusiasts,
It is an honour and a privilege to be speaking to you on such an important day and in such an important place. When I was elected chair of the United Commonwealth Society just over a year ago, I did not imagine even for a moment that I would be speaking here today. I am grateful to Andrew McMurtry and the Royal Commonwealth Society, Toronto Branch, for their gracious invitation.
When looking back over the last few years, it is fair to say that the Commonwealth has not had it easy. The organization has been plagued by years of apathy and neglect, perhaps demonstrated most strongly by last year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka. Setting aside the differences of opinion that arose over the choice of host, only 27 heads of government or state attended the meeting. Excluding those nations who announced their decision not to attend, 23 heads of government or state simply did not show up, sending other government officials in their place.
This followed on the 2011 Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, where those in attendance failed to agree on or endorse most of the findings of the Eminent Persons Group tasked with reviving and reforming the institution. Former British Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a member of the group, decried the results, stating “The Commonwealth faces a very significant problem. It’s not a problem of hostility or antagonism, it’s more a problem of indifference. Its purpose is being questioned, its relevance is being questioned, and part of that is because its commitment to enforce the values for which it stands is becoming ambiguous in the eyes of many member states.”
Perhaps most symbolic of the Commonwealth’s decline was a BBC report this January announcing a threat to the Commonwealth’s most powerful ambassador: the Commonwealth Games. Bids for the 2022 Games were few and unenthusiastic, leading many to question whether the Games would even continue beyond 2018.
All that said, however, the future for the Commonwealth is not necessarily bleak. Although not all recommendations made by the Eminent Persons Group were officially endorsed in Perth, the discussion did result in the drafting of the Charter of the Commonwealth, signed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II a year ago. The debate surrounding last year’s meeting in Sri Lanka revived the Commonwealth as a topic of discussion, prompting observers in each member nation to ponder the organization’s future. We gathered around televisions and computers to celebrate the athletes of Team Commonwealth as they competed at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, and will do so again this summer as they meet at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. We will come together and remember the courage and sacrifice of those who fought and died for King and Empire a hundred years ago in the First World War and 75 years ago in the Second World War, and honour those who continue to serve today.
With the Commonwealth’s profile rising among its citizens, the potential for a long-overdue rebirth is building. There is a sense, expressed by many members of the United Commonwealth Society, that no matter where we set foot within the Commonwealth, we are still “home”. A sense that our Commonwealth cousins are connected by an intangible web that other nations lack, that transcends geography and economics. It’s a kinship forged by centuries of shared history. And it is particularly true of the Commonwealth realms, the 16 nations who share Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.
The Commonwealth realms, in our opinion, share a unique and privileged position within the Commonwealth. In addition to their head of state, these nations share a common language, a common history, a common dedication to democratic values and multicultural demography, similar legal and political systems, similar economies, and broadly compatible national and international interests. This commonality will be key to the Commonwealth’s future.
We are already seeing the seeds of a new realm alliance being sown. Many of the larger realms already cooperate on matters of defence, demonstrated by the “Five Eyes” intelligence pact between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Trade between the realms is also growing; Canada is about to enact a new economic agreement governing trade with the European Union, nearly half of which takes place with the United Kingdom. Just last week, Britain’s Commonwealth Minister Hugo Swire reported that doing business with other Commonwealth members reduces costs by 20% compared to non-Commonwealth nations, a clear advantage that is begging for further recognition.
During the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, the heads of the Commonwealth realms held a special parallel meeting to discuss reform of their royal succession laws, demonstrating a shared commitment to resolving mutual concerns. We believe that more regular meetings between realm officials should take place, culminating in the establishment of a permanent forum for the Commonwealth realms to determine best practices and opportunities for cooperation. Together, the realms should advocate for stronger alliances between Commonwealth members, whether economic, defensive, or environmental in nature. Freer movement between the realms will allow us to learn more about our Commonwealth cousins and the worlds they inhabit. The realms can share opportunities in times of prosperity and stand together in times of crisis.
By speaking with a common voice on the world stage, the Commonwealth realms can maximize their collective and individual influence and opportunities, benefit from a better footing when interacting with other significant powers, and better ensure their shared values continue to be heard in a changing world. I thank you for your time and wish you a happy Commonwealth Day.
United Commonwealth Society
The United Commonwealth Society, along with the rest of the Commonwealth, will be participating in Commonwealth Day celebrations on Monday, 10March 2014 for the first time.
The Chair of the Society, David Haisell, will be present at the Commonwealth Day flag-raising ceremony conducted by the Royal Commonwealth Society (Toronto Branch). A reception will follow, at which point Mr. Haisell will share a few words with those in attendance. The ceremony begins at 10:30am at the Ontario Legislative Assembly (Queen’s Park) in Toronto. Please RSVP by 6 March using the Eventbrite link below!
The Council Representative for the United Kingdom, Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies, Jon-Paul Teasdale, will be present at Wigan Town Hall for the Greater Manchester borough’s first Commonwealth Day ceremony. Conducted by the Leader of the Council, Lord Peter Smith, the ceremony will include the reading of a specially written Commonwealth Affirmation, followed by the raising of the Commonwealth Flag at 10am.
For further details, please click the links below. The United Commonwealth Society is grateful to the Royal Commonwealth Society (Toronto Branch) and Wigan Council for including us in their ceremonies.
Royal Commonwealth Society (Toronto Branch): https://twitter.com/RCSToronto
Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth: http://www.flyaflagforthecommonwealth.co.uk/