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Overcoming significant obstacles in the postwar era, continental Europe has grown into one of the world’s most developed and successful grouping of nations in every possible category.
From conflicted littoral states pre-1945, to a unified trading bloc in 1972 (the EC) to a full customs and trade union in 1993 (the EU) and with several future member states lined-up to join, the modern European Union continues to morph into all that it can and should be.
From its rich history, to its culture and its support for the rule of law, and by placing a high priority on governmental and non-governmental institutions, EU countries have set a global standard in the architecture of governance.
Yet, it isn’t for everyone. Greenland left the bloc in 2009, followed by Switzerland in 2014 which withdrew its application to become an EU member. The Swiss are like that anyway. Very Independent People!
The Swiss remain members of the EFTA, which is simply a group of four like-minded European nations who’ve agreed to streamlined trading arrangements. The EFTA serves to improve trade flows between its members.
Norway, for example (an EFTA member) chose to not join the EU, but participates in many European Union institutions on an al a carte basis, although it must pay a higher price than EU members to have the option to join or not join certain EU institutions and frameworks.
And finally, the UK voted to leave the European Union in the June 2016 referendum, but the Brits joined to leave anyway, it was just a matter of time before they left.
Even with those disappointments (as seen from the EU side) the European Union is still a stunning success with every opportunity to double its standing in the world. Viel Respekt!
Taking the High Road with the EU in the Post-Brexit Timeframe
As good as the European Union is for its continental partners, it just doesn’t work as well for the UK and its Commonwealth partners, which has resulted in the inevitable Brexit vote and all the subsequent steps the UK government has taken towards Brexiting the European Union.
Of course, the EU people may feel some hurt feelings when a country wants to leave its bloc — nobody likes a one-sided divorce. But there soon exists the possibility of creating a new and better relationship between the UK and the EU. And there is plenty of room to improve on that count.
For some, getting Brexit out-of-the-way is merely a necessary step towards getting on to the super-important work of creating the all-time best possible relationship between the UK and the European Union.
The potential for increased trade between the two blocs, for additional mutual aid in addition to their respective NATO commitments, for multi-lateral support at the UN (for example) and to have two powerful European voices registering their positions in the world media instead of one, are just the beginnings of helping the two main European blocs hold even more sway in international affairs.
Yes, the EU can seem a little bureaucratic and autocratic, but they are dedicated to creating a peaceful world order within a standardized regulatory environment centred around global trade. Unless you just arrived from Mars, you’ve got to like that.
For its part, the UK can seem a little disorganized and even frantic at times, but forced to become all it can and should be via the Brexit change-up, it should emerge as a calmer and more mature country that happens to be attached to a large Commonwealth bloc of 2.5 billion citizens.
If managed properly, Brexit will move the UK and the EU relationship one order of magnitude forward — instead of the present situation where the EU is holding the UK back from fulfilling its best destiny and the United Kingdom appears as a thorn in the side of continental European plans.
Time for the UK and the EU to Write Their ‘Best Possible Relationship’ List
Yes, let’s get Brexit over and done with as soon as possible so we can get onto the far more important work of deciding how to maximize European clout in the world and then working together within a permanent pan-European institution set-up for that purpose, figure out how to best work together for mutual economic benefit, and how best to share the overwhelming number of obligations that are owed by developed nations to developing nations.
Things evolve over time. But just because they evolve, doesn’t mean that those things are the best they can be. It simply means that evolution has occurred.
For example, no modern city planner would’ve located Athens where it is now. It’s impossible to defend militarily (in our modern era) it suffers from lack of rainfall+water shortages, it’s hellishly hot in the summer, and it sits atop a major earthquake fault system. Yet, the city evolved and both its residents and the city government have made the best of it.
But it would have been far better for everyone if Athens had been located near the cities of Ioannina or Arta in Greece, where the city of Athens could’ve prospered a 100-times more than it has in its present location.
Likewise, now is the time to draw up what could’ve been all along and work towards what it still could be with the right vision, leadership, and management.
Rather than a splintering Europe that is getting weaker and less goal-directed as time rolls forward, Brexit offers the opportunity to make Europe work better for all its citizens and to strengthen the pan-European worldview — starting with a clean sheet that allows the UK, the EU, Switzerland, Norway and Greenland to succeed as never before!
Few things are as useful to countries as membership in a progressive organization with business links around the world.
For the 53 Commonwealth of Nations members meeting in London this week it’s a chance to discuss ideas, policies, united positions on global or regional affairs, to learn from the experiences of other member nations, and to pursue trade opportunities.
As Britain leaves the European Union by April 2019, Commonwealth of Nations members will discover evermore trade opportunities throughout the United Kingdom. And that trade must work both ways. Countries that allow the UK to export to their country should be encouraged to sell their goods and services to the United Kingdom; making Brexit a ‘Win-Win’ for all Commonwealth member nations.
After Brexit, two-way trade between the UK and EU is expected to drop by a few percentage points (this is normal and not to be feared) however, Commonwealth nations should expect to receive all of that two-way trade availability — and every expectation is that UK and Commonwealth leaders will surpass that low-ish standard.
Further, with restraints removed, the UK will be positioned to negotiate bilateral trade deals with every member of the bloc which should result in a surge of economic activity for every member nation.
Long before it was fashionable for world governments to support equality between people and groups in a society, Commonwealth leaders created the Commonwealth Charter with its sixteen shared principles which include democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, sustainable development, and racial and gender equality, together forming the foundation of the Commonwealth’s constitution.
Prior to 2012, the London Declaration guided the Commonwealth and proved that nations with different capacities and capabilities could work together for mutual benefit, simply by agreeing on shared goals and principles.
Going forward, member nations continue to improve standards and adherence to their principles thereby setting a unique example in national social dynamics to the world.
Like many developed nations, UK companies require plenty of low-cost labourers to harvest crops, to work on production lines, and as general labourers on construction projects.
After Brexit, the UK will be able to source a much larger percentage of labourers from Commonwealth nations as the customs agreement with the EU expires.
This could provide tens of thousands of opportunities annually for citizens of the Commonwealth who want to travel and work in the UK — even if it’s only during specific times of year that farmers require additional labourers — who would then return to their home country with their earnings at the end of the season.
During a period of massive construction projects, the same applies; Tens of thousands of workers could relocate to the UK to work in the construction industry and receive a temporary worker permit allowing them to stay in the country and pay taxes for as long as the contractor requires them. At project conclusion those workers could return to their country with thousands of pounds sterling in their pocket.
Such foreign workers should be required to provide a letter from their local police proving they aren’t wanted on criminal charges, a letter from their bank asserting they have sufficient funds to purchase a return airfare ticket (so they don’t get stranded in the UK when their employment ends) and they should be required to pay the Home Office £100 for every year or portion of a year they stay in the UK.
London is the financial capital of the world and is the ‘go-to’ stock exchange for IPO’s, for mature industries with financing needs, and is the most prestigious exchange on which to list Commonwealth companies.
Once Brexit occurs, billions more in FDI should be flowing from the UK to Commonwealth nations, which should always be the first choice for UK foreign investment.
Special arrangements should be made for individuals and businesses in Commonwealth nations to access UK banks within their home country prior to travelling to Britain.
I will use ‘Barclays’ to make an easy example:
- Barclays (a global bank headquartered in London) should be required to maintain at least one branch in every major city throughout the Commonwealth, in exchange for a reasonable tax advantage.
- For workers wanting to work in the UK who must first apply for a worker’s visa, who must first pay the £100 annual fee to reside in the UK, who must first obtain a letter of credit from the bank proving they have sufficient funds for return airfare, and who must first attach a criminal records check letter to their application to the Home Office — such workers should be able to do it all at the Barclays branch and have all the information electronically transmitted to the appropriate Home Office desk and receive confirmation from the Home Office in the time it takes to sip a coffee.
- For companies that want to import from or export to the UK; the commercial side of the Barclays branch should be set up to enthusiastically assist business owners with every aspect of importing or exporting anywhere within the Commonwealth. Such business owners need only visit a Barclays branch with the idea in hand, and should expect to leave the branch an hour later with every single step completed and be fully informed on every relevant regulation and practice so they can begin importing or exporting the very next day.
- Companies that need financing within their own Commonwealth country — regardless of whether they intend to import from or export to the UK at that exact point in time — should feel that Barclays is always their first choice for financing, for assistance to list on the LSE, or to go public with an IPO offering. Every related thing must be easily done at Barclays in the absolute minimum timeframe — before that business walks out the door, possibly to a non-UK bank, and possibly for good.
- If non-Commonwealth banks offer better personal or business financing, better import and export assistance, better stock exchange listing expertise, better IPO experience and support, then the UK economy and banking sector will suffer by not being in the right place at the right time with the right tools to capture that business. And that would be deeply embarrassing for the United Kingdom — a developed nation with deep and historical roots across the Commonwealth of Nations.
The UK has much to offer the rest of the Commonwealth especially when it comes to mutual aid; whether military aid during internal or external conflict, or civilian aid during natural disasters, and by working together, individual member nations can be more successful than trying to accomplish such operations alone.
Royal Navy ships for example, could automatically become available for sale to Commonwealth nations at any time past the 6-year mark — at a significant savings when compared to purchasing new ships of equal size and capability.
During national emergencies in member nations, the UK should deploy significant resources to aid those nations. India too, has a sizeable military that could work joint operations with the Royal Navy to assist Commonwealth nations in peril.
Working together on military missions and aid projects, member countries will be able to prove with clearly defined examples of mutual aid, how synergy is the most valuable aspect of membership.
The Commonwealth in the post-Brexit timeframe should become 100-times more dynamic than it has been.
For as long as the UK has been shackled to EU regulations it’s been a tough go for the bloc, but much has been accomplished. Yet, there is so much potential!
With 2.5 billion citizens living in Commonwealth nations, most of whom are young and will need to purchase many goods and services throughout their lifetimes, it’s an exciting time for the UK to be re-engaging wholeheartedly with the rest of the membership.
“Sixty percent of the Commonwealth is under the age of 30.” — HRH Prince Harry’s address to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, April 16, 2018.
The reinvigorated Commonwealth is going to out-succeed every country and bloc (and not only in combined GDP growth) but in Trade, Social Issues, Immigration, Investment, and importantly, in Mutual Aid — serving to showcase the kind of synergy that’s possible between nations for the balance of the 21st-century.
It looks like the so-called ‘Project Fear’ campaign has failed in its quest to force referendum after referendum until they got the answer they wanted (which to observers, seemed they wanted to stay in the European Union at any cost) and that Brexit will occur on March 30, 2019 as planned.
All that remains to be decided between the UK and the EU is whether future relations will be based on World Trade Organisation rules, or on a bilateral trade agreement that allows both sides to prosper while maintaining a reasonable level of protection for national sovereignty, for their respective economies, and is able to shelter startups or other businesses that may require some form of special treatment or protection.
Either UK and EU leaders are up to the task, or they’re not. We’ll soon know.
And if they aren’t up to the task, every one of them deserves to get the boot at the next election.
First on the Agenda for the UK
Of paramount importance for the UK are free trade agreements with its Commonwealth partners — agreements that automatically come into effect within 24 hours of the official Brexit date.
It’s important to begin with Commonwealth trading partners because if Commonwealth nations aren’t willing to sign bilateral trade agreements with the UK, why would other countries want trade deals with the UK?
(If I represented a non-Commonwealth country and the UK couldn’t get its act together enough to sign worthwhile free trade agreements with its own Commonwealth partners, I wouldn’t be interested in signing with the UK either)
Yesterday, Australia’s Prime Minister generously indicated his country will sign a bilateral trade agreement to automatically come into effect the day after Brexit, and New Zealand, Canada, India, and other Commonwealth nations have indicated they’re open to bilateral trade agreements with the UK too.
Therefore, it isn’t a reach to suggest that such agreements be ready for a signing ceremony the day after Brexit and that UK foreign direct investment (FDI) in those countries will thenceforth take an instant leap forward.
The time to get such negotiations done is NOW so that a simultaneous signing ceremony can be televised across each of the Commonwealth’s 53 capital cities at 00:01 (in the UK timezone) on March 30, 2019.
What a tribute to enduring relations between Commonwealth members. Such a historic moment!
Second on the Agenda for the UK
No later than 24-hours after Brexit (which puts us at March 31, 2019) the UK should have free trade agreements automatically coming into effect with every economy in the world — agreements that work for each country just as well as they work for the UK.
‘Win-Lose’ thinking is no longer an option in the 21st century and anything less than ‘Win-Win’ isn’t worth spit. In fact, unless trade agreements are ‘Win-Win-Win’ these days, their value is questionable.
If the UK offers a ‘Win-Win’ trade agreement to China, but Japan offers a ‘Win-Win-Win’ trade agreement to China; Which of the two countries will be China’s most favoured trading partner?
Obviously, Japan’s offer would win, and the UK offer would simply gather dust as Japan’s relationship with China surged forward.
These negotiations must occur NOW and be led with a high level of urgency by Prime Minister Theresa May and Secretary of State for International Trade Dr. Liam Fox, so that by April 1, 2019 the UK will have bilateral trade deals with every country in the world — that automatically come into effect the day after the official Brexit date.
Anything less than that stellar achievement should be considered by UK voters to be a mediocre performance by the (then) ruling party in the UK House of Commons.