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Posts from the ‘Author: Jon-Paul Teasdale’ Category

Realm Union in Action: Nordic 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. Click here to read previous articles in the series.

Stepping outside of the Commonwealth for this issue I want to explore the concept and beginnings of the Nordic Council.

Inaugurated in 1953 (initially proposed in 1951) the Nordic Council is an inter-parliamentary forum for the Nordic countries. It was formed after WWII and quickly introduced a common labour market, the Nordic Passport Union and a common travel area among Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. In 1971 a Nordic Council of Ministers was introduced to work alongside the council.

The 87 members of the Nordic Council are elected from the parliaments of the member countries in a system similar to that used by the European Parliament up to 1979.

The Nordic Council was able to form so quickly due to the historical, cultural, lingual and legal connections between them, but also because of the absence of other bodies and organisations with restrictive conditions. Taken from the report “Together or Apart – The Nordic Council and the EU”, “…the strength of the Nordic Council to be the historical, cultural and societal similarity of its member countries. Familiarity with northern conditions is cited as a further strength. Shared values and a common background for the basis of the NC’s activities and reinforce cohesion.” Later issues would arise with Finland due to their proximity to Russia and Denmark and Norway’s interests in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

The organisation now has five full members (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), three associate members (the self-governing territories of Åland, Faroe Islands and Greenland), and four observer members (sovereign nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the federal German state of Schleswig-Holstein). This composition of sovereign nations, self-governing territories and other interested and/or related states is a really good example that the Realm Union can follow.

Flags of the Nordic Council. Photographer skanephoto.com/norden.org

Flags of the Nordic Council. Photographer skanephoto.com/norden.org

With the mixture of realms, overseas territories, dependencies, states, provinces, and home nations, if the federal German state of Schleswig-Holstein can be included in the Nordic Council along with the associate and observer members then I am confident that a Realm Union would be a success.

Exploring the early history of the council it is exciting to see how much was achieved in a short space of time. Social security, movement of people, passport standards, a proposed single market, public health and cultural initiatives were all included.

Unfortunately, as what happened with Britain since the 1970s, the European Economic Community (EEC), then later European Union (EU), started to unravel or supersede the agreements made in the council. The Nordic Passport Union for example, was taken over by the Schengen Agreement, but it is still valid for those members that are outside of the European Economic Area.

The Together or Apart report highlights some of the council’s weaknesses, and these same weaknesses are being experienced by the wider Commonwealth of Nations and will be experienced by the smaller Realm Union. Lack of political clout, bureaucracy, going round in circles with issues, external organisations taking priority, avoidance of hard issues are currently undermining the Nordic Council. These weaknesses would need to be addressed in any future union of the Commonwealth realms.

Despite the integration of the majority of the Nordic members into the EU the Nordic Council may still have a future. Some calls have been made for the council to federate the Nordic countries to make one large economic powerhouse (not too dissimilar to calls made to federate the CANZUK (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK) countries or the Commonwealth realms, however, there is currently little interest among the average Scandinavian to move away from the small sovereign state.

When researching this piece what came across to me was the ease with which the council has been able to accommodate the different circumstances of each member while still maintaining the whole. When Sweden wished to remain neutral in defence matters, Denmark and Norway were still able to join NATO. When the newly independent Baltic States emerged from the USSR their interest was rewarded with observer status. When the EU members joined the Schengen area, Greenland was able to maintain the common travel area, albeit with some modifications.

Flag of the Nordic Council

Flag of the Nordic Council

The biggest point to make about the Nordic Council is that as well as a name that does a really good job at describing who they are, the Nordic Council has not eroded any of the traditions, tones or sovereignty of the members. Each one is still as patriotic as they have always been and all still wave their respective flags proudly. This then is further evidence to give to any naysayers that a Realm Union, Realm Council, Council of the Realms or similar would not have to undermine the sovereignty of the members.

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.norden.org ; www.wikipedia.com ; Together or Apart – The Nordic Council and the EU, Karina Jutila & Terhi Tikkala 2009

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

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

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

A Marriage Intervention

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I think Scotland’s government is having an affair.

In fact I know that Scotland’s government is having an affair. The subject of the government’s desires, the allure of power, and the illusion of a better life as a single, separated country from the United Kingdom family.

Just like the average married couple who split, but live in the same town, Scotland will keep bumping into the divorced United Kingdom. How awkward!

It will be awkward and will not go as smoothly as planned. What if the UK sees Scotland signing an agreement with a foreign country completely at odds with the UK’s way of thinking? The collection of islands that make up the British Isles could become very, very small. Ask Ireland.

But Scotland’s flirtations with the single life is not entirely her fault. You see, the UK is also to blame. It has neglected Scotland’s emotional needs. Sections of industry have been decimated because of national and global events. Unhelpful policies have been forced onto her and made life extremely hard. Maybe the UK has been too controlling, wanting to know Scotland’s every move, or worse, has the UK given her so much freedom under devolution that Scotland thinks the UK has given up or given the impression that you can live a single life while married.

King James (I / VI) likened the union of crowns to a marriage. A royal, cultural and political marriage.

Flag of the United Kingdom (C) UCS 2014

Flag of the United Kingdom (C) UCS 2014

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Commonwealth Day Reflection

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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.

Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth Logo 10th March 2014

Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth Logo 10th March 2014

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

Newly Appointed Officers for England; Gibraltar and the Isle of Man

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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.

Jon-Paul Teasdale
Representative – UK Regional Office

 

Whither the Fates Carry Us – The Hidden Commonwealth

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I continue my journey through the Hidden Commonwealth, the territories, dependencies and associated states of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Our next stop is Bermuda; the most populous British Overseas Territory.


Bermuda


Flag of Bermuda

 

Status:                                     British Overseas Territory

Official Language:              English

Population:                           64,600 (2010[1])

Land area:                              20.6 sq. miles (53.2 sq. km)

Currency:                              Bermudian Dollar (BMD)

Motto:                                    Whither the fates carry us

Governor:                             George Fergusson

Premier:                                Craig Cannonier

UK Minister:                       Mark Simmonds MP

Map of Bermuda

Bermuda is a financial and tourist powerhouse, steeped in history and proud of its roots. Situated in the Atlantic Ocean, Bermuda is at once strategic and idyllic. A fascinating history of trade, privateering and defence, coupled with the boom in tourism to its pink sandy beaches and innovative financial services, all serving to make these islands a gem between Britain, North America and the Caribbean.

Beach at Astwood Park © Ministry of Tourism and Transport Bermuda

Beach at Astwood Park © Ministry of Tourism and Transport Bermuda

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Research and Discovery – The Hidden Commonwealth

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I continue my journey through the Hidden Commonwealth, the territories, dependencies and associated states of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Our next stop is the internationally protected continent of Antarctica that has separate claims by all three Commonwealth realms.


Antarctica

Flags of Antarctica

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Strength and Endurance – The Hidden Commonwealth

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Thank you for joining us on our journey through The Hidden Commonwealth: the territories, dependencies and associated states of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Our first stop on this tour is one of the northern most islands of the Caribbean – Anguilla.

Let’s get the awkward part out of the way; I have never been to Anguilla. When I first started preparing for this series I thought, “How can someone write about somewhere that they’ve never been to before?” It’s a big challenge I’ve had to face, but you’ll be surprised just how much information is out there, if you’re prepared to look. With that out of the way, let’s begin…


Anguilla

Flag of Anguilla
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The Hidden Commonwealth

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The Commonwealth of Nations is an association of over 86 nations which spans the globe. Wait a minute, did I say 86? I’ll count them again. Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Canada…India, Jamaica…New Zealand, Papua New Guinea…Tuvalu, United Kingdom. I counted 54 this time, so where did I find the others?

Tucked away in the world’s nooks and crannies are a collection of nations proud of their histories and unique systems of government. 32 individual nations made up of all different shapes and sizes. Some have populations as little as 50 people (Pitcairn Islands). Some have populations as big as 64,600 (Bermuda). TheMap of the  World CW and CW Realmsy are the territories, dependencies and associated states of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

The overseas territories of these three great nations are viewed by many as relics of the once mighty British Empire. They are seen as objects that the three nations should now discard: reminders of the injustices of colonialism. But that is a very narrow view. The benefits of empire will continue to be debated for as long as mankind exists, but one thing the British Empire did do was to evolve, with a lot of persuasion, into the modern Commonwealth. And the territories, however tiny or eccentric, are all pieces of the jigsaw that make up the Commonwealth family. Each piece unique, with its own set of circumstances. Read more