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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