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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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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

Sign the Freedom of Movement Petition!

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In the years since its creation, the United Commonwealth Society has been joined by several groups in its advocacy for greater relations between the Commonwealth realms.

The newest group is the Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation. As their name indicates, CFMO advocates for the freedom of movement between Commonwealth nations, and Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (CANZUK) in particular.

Since launching it at the beginning of March 2015, CFMO’s petition on Change.org has gained over 68,000 signatures and widespread media attention. A poll on the issue in an article on CBC.ca was answered by over 72,000 people, nearly 91% of whom supported the move.

To show your support, please click here or on the image below to sign the petition.

CAl7EJeWcAASbZB.jpg-large

 

The petition has been submitted to both the New Zealand and Australian governments; Canada and the United Kingdom will receive the petition after the completion of their general elections. If you are in Australia or New Zealand, please show your support after signing by contacting your elected officials.

http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members
http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/about-parliament/get-involved/contact/00PlibHvYrSayContact1/contact-an-mp

David J Haisell

Chair

Commonwealth Day 2015

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CW Day 2015

The United Commonwealth Society wishes all of you a Happy Commonwealth Day!

United Commonwealth Society Newsletter

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Greetings everyone!

As alluded to previously during our election campaign and new member documents, the United Commonwealth Society is launching an official newsletter this year. The newsletter will be digitally sent quarterly to all members who have provided us with their full name, location (city and province/state/county), and e-mail address. If you are not a member, join today and e-mail us with your contact information to ensure you receive your copy!

We want all members to have a say in what the newsletter looks like. We would like your input on a) its name and b) the logo used for the front page. Please share your suggestions by e-mailing our chair.

We also welcome content for the newsletter. Anything of interest going on in your area? Have something you’d like to discuss with the membership? Please contact us and share your ideas!

2015 is going to be a great year for the UCS. I look forward to sharing our updates with you!

David J Haisell

Chair