There is no question that uncertain times lie ahead for the European Union.
After the historic Brexit vote of June 23rd, 2016, the EU was left in quite the predicament. Not only had one of its major players left the bloc after 43 years, but panic spread across Brussels, wondering if there would be another member state to claim independence.
In recent months, the entire economic and political structure of Europe has changed. More and more experts are backing countries to follow in the UK’s footsteps and hold their own referendums on EU membership, and the populations of France, the Netherlands, Austria and Croatia are already pushing anti-EU rhetoric for sovereignty.
And now, against all predictions, President-elect of the United States, Donald Trump, has secured his place in the White House for January 2017. Trump has made no secret of his opinions regarding the EU, and was supportive of the UK’s ambitious vote against anti-establishment politics and “the Brussels elite”.
Make no mistake, the EU has seen better days, and 2017 could decide its fate.
The Netherlands hosts its parliamentary elections on March 15th, and recent polls show Geert Wilders (the anti-EU leader of The Freedom Party) neck-and-neck with current Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals. If Wilders pulls off an election victory, the Netherlands will administer a “Nexit” vote on EU membership, and likely vote to leave.
In France, voters have dramatically increased support for the anti-EU National Front, and with the second round of presidential elections coming up on May 7th, Marie Le Pen may have an opening to take the race, especially considering the current president, Francois Hollande, is the most unpopular president in French history.
And even the big players of Europe are gritting their teeth at EU politicians. Germany has voted against its current Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in a series of regional elections after an open-door refugee policy (endorsed by the European Union) caused civil unrest in major cities. Federal elections are due in Fall 2017, and as Frank Petry (co-leader of the Alternative for Germany party) has stated:
“…just as Americans didn’t believe the pollsters of the mainstream media, Germans also must have the courage to make their mark at the ballot box themselves”.
Of course, no one is definitively saying that the EU will collapse in the next few years, but it’s not something out of the question.
With civil unrest and public dissatisfaction on the rise with the EU project, there is a possibility of the 28 member bloc being assigned to the history books. After all, who would have thought, 5 years ago, that by January 2017, the UK would have voted to leave the EU and Donald Trump would be president of the United States?
If there’s anything we’ve learnt, it’s that nothing in politics is impossible. If enough people support a cause for the right reasons, change is only a popular vote away, and unfortunately for the EU, it could find itself on the wrong side of declining public support.
But if the worst case scenario does happen, the United Kingdom should not worry, because an even better alternative is just around the corner; a union between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, commonly known as “CANZUK”.
This alternative would encompass the ideals of free movement (allowing citizens to temporarily or indefinitely reside in any of these nations for any length of time) without the federalist agenda as seen in the EU which imposes central political, economic and military policies.
British citizens would have the opportunity to live, work and study in Australia, Canada and New Zealand without the requirements of visas or work permits, and what’s more, free movement would lead to a more prosperous and thriving union of nations.
At USD $6.5 trillion in combined GDP, a CANZUK union would form the fourth largest group in the world (behind the USA, the EU and China). Total global trade for these four countries would be around US $3.5 trillion, and combined military expenditure would be worth US $110 billion (ranking third in the world).
In essence, our four nations would become part of the most politically and economically progressive union in the world, advancing innovation, trade, growth and diplomacy for greater prosperity and increased quality of life.
In times where the UK’s current arrangement with the EU is dwindling, our return to the pre-1973 Commonwealth arrangement we once enjoyed is only just beginning. Boris Johnson and Julie Bishop (Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs) have already expressed interest in visa liberalisation between the two countries, and with former Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, declaring support for free movement and our online petition gathering over 169,000 signatures (and rising), it seems a CANZUK union is closer than ever before.
No one truly knows if the EU will carry on or fall under increasing public dissatisfaction, but in either case, the future for Britain is bright. If we advance the arguments for a CANZUK union, especially in the current political climate, there is no reason why free movement between our four nations cannot succeed.
From one great political project to the next; the EU is our history, but CANZUK is our future.