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The Synergy of the Commonwealth

by John Brian Shannon

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.


Trade

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.


Social Issues

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.


Immigration

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.


Investment

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.

Mutual Aid

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.


Summary

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.

Why are we Talking About Russia and Syria Instead of Brexit?

by John Brian Shannon

A civil war has been raging inside Syria since 2010 — a conflict with roots back to the Western-backed ‘Arab Spring’ which left all those countries in MUCH WORSE CONDITION and if you believe the press reports, great atrocities were perpetrated by some or all sides in Arab Spring nations and continue to occur in the Syrian conflict.

No surprise there. There hasn’t been a civil war in history where heinous crimes haven’t been committed and they are often committed by more than one side. Syria is nothing special in that regard.

Not that we should ignore those events. Far from it!

But most Western politicians are of the mind that when such atrocities are committed they should be countered with an appropriate military strike directed against the suspected perpetrators of such attacks — to act as a deterrent to prevent future heinous attacks. Except that it doesn’t work.

It’s a very human response that is typical of non-military minds to think that a military counter-strike will accomplish anything, but combat-experienced military people know that war isn’t over until it’s over, and that never happens until there’s a clear winner.

Less than twelve months ago, the United States used cruise missile strikes to punish those Syrians who purportedly used chemical weapons in an attack against combatants, non-combatants, and any civilians who happened to be within range of the chemical bombs dropped by helicopter and here we are again contemplating a Western-backed missile attack against Syria for its suspected use of chemical weapons.

READ: Timeline of chemical weapons attacks in Syria (Washington Post)

Which proves that occasional cruise missile attacks by the United States against the Syrian military and against non-state actors in Syria, doesn’t work. Because as soon as we turn our backs they’re at it again. Check that timeline link above and remember that timeline only covers the chemical attacks we know about.


Parallels With the Vietnam War?

Prior to the United States becoming involved in the Vietnam conflict, heinous acts were suspected to occur and was one of the reasons used to justify American intervention.

As usual, it wasn’t long before every side — including the Americans — were receiving bad press for purported wartime atrocities during the Vietnam War. It was a war that lasted exactly 10,000 days and during that time every side was lambasted by the world media for certain usages of force.

‘Agent Orange’ (a chemical defoliant used to strip the leaves from trees and plants to allow better ground surveillance) was used by the Americans and it’s plausible that enemy combatants could have been in the area during spraying and may have received lethal doses of the stuff — yet the chemicals used by the other side were even worse for plants, jungle life, and humans alike.

In the end, the Vietnam War, like any other war, wasn’t over until it was over — counter-strikes for chemical weapons use notwithstanding.

Which is a different way of saying that occasional military strikes prior to full involvement by the Americans in Vietnam did nothing to prevent suspected chemical weapons use and other wartime atrocities perpetrated by the North Vietnamese Army and its sidekick the Viet Cong militia group, but neither did full engagement.


What’s the UK’s Role in the post-Brexit World?

It certainly isn’t policing Syria. Nor is it patrolling or intervening anywhere in the Mediterranean Sea region which by definition is in the EU’s sphere of influence as it’s the dominant superpower in the region. And other than helping to protect longtime ally Israel, the Americans have no legitimate business in the Med either.

Launching into nebulous encounters with Syria, Russia and China over suspected small-scale chemical weapons attacks in Syria is begging for trouble. The kind of trouble that gets shiny new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers sunk for no good reason.

The UK’s role in the world is changing and it must evolve ahead of the curve, not behind it.

First and foremost must be the protection of the United Kingdom, which has thrived under both NATO and EU protection. And thanks to the UK’s longtime relationship with the United States, if things had got past the point that the UK and EU acting together couldn’t handle a particular threat, the Americans would’ve come to our rescue. Thank you again, America!

But in less than 352 days the UK can no longer count on EU protection (nor should it expect any special treatment from the EU) and with America turning away from the world, it’s well past the time to take a full spectrum view of UK defence and capabilities.

And before you can do that, you need to define the role the military is expected to play.


Priorities

  1. Protection of the land, sea and airspace, over, in, and around, the United Kingdom.
  2. Protection of and mutual aid agreements with; Norway (because of its proximity to the UK) with NATO countries (still close to the UK) and with all Commonwealth of Nations members.
  3. Mutual aid agreements with *potential* Commonwealth nations.
  4. Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK *has* bilateral trade agreements.
  5. Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK is *exploring* bilateral trade agreements.
  6. Humanitarian assistance operations approved by the UN.

In short, just like a policeman, every country has its own ‘beat’ — the territory it needs to defend.

The UK’s beat in the post-Brexit era must be limited to operations and mutual aid to partner countries in the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific Ocean, otherwise the UK will need to purchase more aircraft carriers and other capital ships and severe UK budget cuts would be required to afford all that extra warfighting capacity.

I respectfully posit that protection of the UK, Norway and other NATO countries, and the Commonwealth of Nations is a sizable enough beat for the United Kingdom now, and will remain that way for many years to come.

Making 2018 the year to drill down to find what is, and what isn’t, of the utmost importance to the United Kingdom’s future.

Parts of the world that have only a passing socio-economic or military interest for the United Kingdom must remain off-limits, unless British taxpayers want to fund a military that is comparable to the U.S. military in size and scope.

Let the superpowers and the countries closest to the world’s various conflict zones assist those nations in crisis — Britain can’t be everywhere, cleaning-up everyone else’s messes.

Taking care of the UK, the Commonwealth, and upholding NATO commitments will be more than enough to keep the UK occupied for the balance of the 21st-century.

Brexit + Commonwealth & NAFTA Trade = Economic Powerhouse

by John Brian Shannon

Timid minds are wondering whether the UK should continue along the Brexit path that British voters approved in 2016.

But just imagine what kind of world it would be today if Winston Churchill had given in to timidity during WWII, or if Albert Einstein was too small a man for the job, or if Franklin Delano Roosevelt was too afraid of failing and thereby didn’t pursue his plan to ‘put a chicken in every pot’ in Depression-era America? We’d be living in a far different world now, wouldn’t we?

There is a thing about leaders and it’s this, if they don’t actually Lead they are useless baggage. And that’s all that needs to be said about that.

Prime Minister Theresa May was given a mandate by voters to take the UK out of the European Union, and whether it rains too hard on Sunday, or if Manchester United can’t seem to win a game, or even if the Russians are scaring us, Brexit must remain at the forefront of Britain’s To-Do List and everything else must be considered a distraction until the job is done.


How the UK can fulfill its proper role in the world

With a strong UK government the chips would fall into place rather quickly and completely bereft of excuses, the following would occur:

  1. Brexit (even a WTO or so-called ‘Hard Brexit’) or a sweet-for-both-sides Brexit would occur by the designated date of March 29, 2019.
  2. The UK would apply to join the (by then) recently renegotiated NAFTA accord — or perhaps all the parties would agree they’d be better served by partial UK membership in NAFTA. Hey, you never know until you try, but magic occurs when people of goodwill meet-up to plan mutual success!
  3. The UK would enter into trade negotiations with every Commonwealth member nation to see what the UK can offer those nations (expertise, financial services, high-tech) and what those nations can offer the UK (agricultural products, oil and gas, metals and minerals, perhaps even a source of low-cost seasonal labour for UK farms) and so much more! Again, you never know until you try!
  4. And remember, Theresa… the goal isn’t to say; “Well, at least we tried.” The goal is to secure a standardized free trade agreement, or a standardized low-tariff trade agreement with the Commonwealth nations and every non-Commonwealth nation — especially the NAFTA ones.

What’s to Gain?

By accomplishing those steps in the proper order, the UK economy would grow 5% over existing projections — or the government is doing it all wrong.

India alone will have 1.3 billion consumers by 2019, and the United States, the highest-consuming nation in the world, will have 331 million consumers by 2019.

Post-Brexit does not mean five or ten years after Brexit — it means one year after Brexit.

These goals are eminently achievable and there can be no excuses for not hitting these metrics by 2020.

Orchards full of apples will be missed for the sake of handfuls of grapes if the UK government is too ‘small’ for the job, or if it suffers from low ambition, or if because of timidity, it can’t grab the brass ring of destiny.

The time is now for the UK to take control of its future and to stop being distracted from the oft-stated goal of Building a Better Britain.

More power to Theresa May’s government for as many days, months or years they strive to meet the will of voters and continue to work to fulfill the UK’s rather obvious destiny!