As the United Kingdom leaves the European Union over the next few months, the historical and ongoing ties Britain has with the Commonwealth of Nations organization are expected to dramatically increase in importance.
In the decades since 1972 when the UK joined the European Community (EC) Britain’s primary engagement was with its EC partners, while its Commonwealth partnerships dwindled.
But a dramatic reversal is in the making.
The acting Queen of the United Kingdom and head of the Commonwealth, Elizabeth II recently approved her son Prince Charles to soon succeed her as the head of the Commonwealth of Nations organization, and also approved Prince Harry to be a Commonwealth youth ambassador.
Both appointments were warmly received by Commonwealth leaders at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government (GHOGM) meeting in London in April 2018.
It shows that the organization still values the contribution of the British Royal Family and seemingly wants to increase trade and political ties to the UK — almost as much as the UK wants to get cracking on trade matters with the 2.5 billion member bloc.
Rarely is there such a clear case of ‘Win-Win’ convergence in geopolitics, but this is a relationship that was born to succeed.
More on Commonwealth matters tomorrow!
A Royal (and Fun for Everyone!) Wedding Today at Windsor Castle
In the meantime; Heartfelt congratulations to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle who were married today at Windsor Castle. Harry now becomes the Duke of Sussex, while Meghan is henceforth the Duchess of Sussex.
They are a fascinating couple who are certain to make their very positive mark on the Commonwealth of Nations, on the United Kingdom, and on the rest of the Royal Family. Godspeed and good wishes to Harry and Meghan!
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!
In 1948 during a time of labour shortages in the immediate postwar era, 492 Jamaican citizens (many of them children travelling with their parents) were permitted to board the Royal Navy troop ship HMT Empire Windrush to travel to Britain for the purpose of employment and residency.
At the time, they were promised eventual citizenship if they chose to stay in Britain and contribute to British society, or they could work for a time and return to their home country with some cash in their pocket. Their choice.
Since 1948, hundreds of thousands of ‘Afro-Caribbean’ people travelled to Britain to work and to live, contributing much to the country it must be said.
Many found work in the Royal Navy, in the National Health Service (NHS) and in other sectors of the economy during a time of unprecedented GDP growth and record low unemployment.
The 1971 Immigration Act
In 1971, a new law was passed by the UK House of Commons that limited the ability of people from Commonwealth countries to live and work in the United Kingdom — therefore, those people who’ve relocated to the UK since 1971 have done so under very specific legal terms and conditions and are not considered part of the Windrush Generation.
The 1971 Immigration Act stipulated that those from Commonwealth countries already living in the United Kingdom were granted the right to continue living in the UK indefinitely, but henceforth, new immigrants from the Commonwealth were required to have 1) a work permit and 2) prove that a parent or grandparent had been born in the UK. — BBC News
Anyway, back to those who moved from Commonwealth countries to Britain during the 1948-1971 timeframe.
After contributing greatly to Britain in the postwar era and raising their British-born children and grandchildren in the UK and all of it done on the strength of a verbal promise by Britain’s government, some of them are having problems accessing government services, others have been threatened with deportation, (and yes, hard to believe) some have been incarcerated until their case was eventually adjudicated by faceless bureaucrats in the Home Office whose final decisions weren’t open to appeal.
Most of the Windrush Generation weren’t given any kind of documentation to prove their status in Britain in 1948-1971 and it seems that the Home Office won’t let them stay unless they can produce documentation to prove they’re legally in the country! Facepalm!
It almost seems like a spoof episode entitled, The Three Stooges: Bureaucrats on Acid.
How to Fix This Debacle?
Obviously, these people possess a birth certificate from their home country or they can access a copy of their birth certificate from their country of origin — and if they were born in a Commonwealth country and emigrated to Britain between 1948 and 1971 they should automatically qualify for British citizenship, have the same rights as any other British citizen, and be able to access the same government services as any British citizen.
Further, some might be owed an apology from the government for delays, arbitrary or wholly unfair Home Office decisions — and financial compensation should be paid in cases where disrespect or outright racism was displayed by Home Office employees.
Windrush people who have been seriously inconvenienced by Home Office staff (either deported or incarcerated for not being able to produce the paperwork that had never been issued by the Home Office in the first place) should expect to receive a payment from the government in the most egregious cases. But there needs to be a maximum cap on the amount paid per individual of £50,000 and the individual would need to sign documentation waiving any right to civil litigation on such matters against the Home Office or other departments of the government.
Children of Windrush
Any children born in Britain to the Windrush Generation are already British citizens, but if born outside the UK (obviously) are citizens of the country in which they were born — although their naturalized UK parents should be able to easily apply for them to become UK citizens at any future date.
Non-Windrush Generation Immigrants
Any non-UK citizen who wishes to live, work, go to school, or retire in the UK should be required to supply an up-to-date criminal records check from their home country with their initial application and pay £100 per year for the privilege of living in the UK, and supply their up-to-date phone number and home address to the Home Office via an easy-to-understand and easy-to-pay website that should take each individual less than 10-minutes per year to complete.
Windrush Generation people and their UK-born or UK-naturalized children would, of course, be completely exempt from such requirements and should henceforth be treated the same as any other British citizen.
Thank you again to the Windrush Generation for their work in building the United Kingdom that we see today. Well done!