CANZUK is an acronym for the theoretical political and economic union of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom as part of an international body similar in scope to the former European Economic Community. This includes increased trade, foreign policy co-operation, military co-operation, and mobility of citizens between the four states. The idea is supported by various organisations and think tanks, such as CANZUK International, the Adam Smith Institute and politicians from the four countries.
(Canada, Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom)
A map highlighting CANZUK and its dependencies.
Dependencies of CANZUK countries
|Type||• Personal Union|
• Proposed international organisation/common market area
|18,187,210 km2 (7,022,120 sq mi)|
• Water (%)
• 2018/2019 estimate
|7.2/km2 (18.6/sq mi)|
|GDP (nominal)||2018 estimate|
• Per capita
The term CANZUK was first coined by the author William David McIntyre in his 1967 book Colonies Into Commonwealth in the context of a "CANZUK Union". More recently, the term has been adopted by the pressure group CANZUK International, formerly the Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation. In the wake of the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum and the decision made by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, writers such as Andrew Lilico and James C. Bennett, along with academics such as the historian Andrew Roberts have advocated that Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom merge and form a new entity in international politics. Andrew Roberts suggested that such a bloc could slot into the international order as a third pillar of the West (alongside the United States and the European Union). Beyond this, Roberts argues that due to its territorial scale, geographic scope and advanced economy that it would qualify as a "great power" and potentially a "global power" (or emerging superpower).
Some advocates such as Roberts favour a federal or confederal union. Others, such as Lilico describe the objective as being the creation of a "geopolitical partnership" akin to the European Economic Community. In the version favoured by Lilico, by the advocacy group CANZUK international and by the Canadian Conservative Party, the proposal would involve the creation of a free-movement zone, a multilateral free trade agreement and a security partnership. The more general concept of deepening trade ties (with or without a multilateral agreement) has many advocates, including figures such as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Theresa May and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Origins and relationshipEdit
Canada, Australia and New Zealand are former settler colonies of the British Empire where people of British ethnic origin came to constitute the majority of the population. Today, the four CANZUK countries maintain a close affinity of cultural, diplomatic and military ties to one another as a result of this. Outside of the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories, the largest proportions of people of self-identified ethnic British descent in the world are found in New Zealand (59 per cent), Australia (46 per cent) and Canada (31 per cent), followed by a considerably smaller minority in the United States (12 per cent) and parts of the Caribbean. In homage to this, the Australian and New Zealand flags contain the flag of the United Kingdom in their canton, and the United Kingdom's flag is also one of two official flags of Canada (referred to as the Royal Union Flag).
Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are also Commonwealth Realms which share Elizabeth II as constitutional monarch and head of state. The countries share a number of institutional, linguistic and religious similarities such as the use of the Westminster parliamentary system of government, Common Law, British English terminology and the adoption of secular Christian values. The CANZUK countries form part of the English-speaking world and share a number of Anglosphere military initiatives with each other including Five Eyes intelligence, ABCANZ Armies and AUSCANNZUKUS, which are concerned with increased military and naval co-operation. Canada and the United Kingdom are allied through the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation while Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are allied through the Five Power Defence Arrangements.
Public relations are extremely warm between the four countries, with consistent evidence that people in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom regard each other's countries as their country's closest friends and allies in the world.
Below is a table comparing the CANZUK countries. Data is for 2019.
|Country||Population||Land area (km2)||Land area (sq mi)||Nominal GDP
|Nominal GDP per capita
|PPP GDP per capita
per capita (USD)
|United Kingdom||66,876,964||241,930||93,410||$2,936.29||$44,367||$2,880.25||$43,520||$14,073||$212,640||0.922 (very high)|
|Canada||37,314,442||9,993,510||3,858,520||$1,820.00||$48,774||$1,931.00||$51,749||$7,407||$202,240||0.926 (very high)|
|Australia||25,324,400||7,682,300||2,966,200||$1,500.26||$61,359||$1,235.30||$50,522||$7,329||$299,748||0.939 (very high)|
|New Zealand||4,825,170||263,310||101,660||$206||$42,692||$185.748||$38,496||$1,162||$240,821||0.917 (very high)|
|Total||134,340,976||18,181,050||10,737,947||$6441.01||$48,765||$6065.08||$45,919||$29,971||$226,913||0.926 (very high)|
|Total as % of World||1.7%||7%||7%||7.4%||–||4.8%||–||10.7%||–||–|
Several organisations have been set up that promote, to varying degrees, much closer associations between the CANZUK nations. CANZUK International has, as its stated aim, the desire to establish an area of freedom of movement akin to that which existed before the European Communities Act 1972, or as a mirror to the rights of free movement as seen within the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement. Other organisations are largely voluntary groupings of those who advocate the more specific idea of transnational union, such as "CANZUK Uniting".
In August 2017, Liberal Senator for Victoria, James Paterson, published an opinion-piece in the Australian Financial Review declaring support for CANZUK free trade and free movement, stating "With Australia, New Zealand, and Canada all lining up to sign post-Brexit trade agreements with the United Kingdom, we have an opportunity to push for a wide-ranging agreement between all four Commonwealth nations...It's an idea whose time has come."
Several members of parliament voiced their support for the CANZUK initiative during the Conservative Party of Canada's 2017 leadership election. The eventual winner of the leadership election, Andrew Scheer, stated his support for a CANZUK free trade deal in March 2017. At a debate in Vancouver, British Columbia, Scheer stated, "I very much support a trade deal with those countries. Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have a similar basis of law, they have a common democratic system, they have the same types of legislation and regulations around investment and trade. Those are the types of things we don't enjoy with China".[better source needed]
Other candidates for the Conservative Party leadership also adopted CANZUK free trade and free movement as a part of their campaigns platforms, including Erin O'Toole, and Michael Chong. In April 2017, O'Toole released a video with CANZUK International, describing the CANZUK initiative as "a no brainer", stating that Canada already offers free trade and free mobility with citizens of the United States, and should therefore offer such benefits to "our other closest allies". In May 2017, Chong declared support for post-Brexit free movement between the CANZUK countries, saying it was "a good idea to explore a new trade deal with Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, particularly in light of the Brexit vote".
In August 2018, the Conservative Party of Canada adopted CANZUK as official party policy at their 2018 party convention by 215 votes to 7. The party presently serves as the Official Opposition in the Parliament of Canada.
In New Zealand, ACT New Zealand has expressed support for a "free-movement zone", with leader David Seymour stating, "Successful nations like Britain and New Zealand shouldn't be putting up walls and shutting off from each other when it's the exchange of ideas that has made our nations so prosperous. Brexit provides new options as Britain pivots away from European immigration. Let's approach Britain with a proposal for a two-way free movement agreement".
On 11 July 2012, Andrew Rosindell MP put forward a private members' bill to the UK Parliament which would involve allowing "subjects of Her Majesty's realms to enter the United Kingdom through a dedicated channel at international terminals," which would include citizens of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with the stated aim of introducing reciprocal border agreements between the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms in the future. The bill was support by MPs Nigel Dodds (DUP), Rory Stewart (Conservative), Bob Blackman (Conservative), Steve Baker (Conservative), Priti Patel (Conservative), Mark Menzies (Conservative), Kate Hoey (Labour), Ian Paisley (DUP), John Redwood (Conservative) and Thomas Docherty (Labour). The proposed bill failed to reach its second reading due to a lack of parliamentary time and failed to pass through the Parliament.
In November 2014, then Mayor of London Boris Johnson expressed support for establishing "mobility zones" between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, stating that "the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand share the same head of state, the same language and the same common-law legal system. Critically, they are all highly economically developed democracies and there is also a distinct common culture and familial bond between them".
Conservative MEP for South East England Daniel Hannan expressed his support for CANZUK as a guest speaker at the 2018 Canadian Conservative Party convention in Halifax. Scottish Conservative MP Bill Grant also expressed his support for increased ties between the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand on his webpage in 2018 and stated that British Ministers are aware of CANZUK and "are very enthusiastic about our future relationships and trade with each of the countries involved".
Although the United Kingdom is in the process of leaving the European Union, any potential trade agreement between the UK and other CANZUK countries are not legally credible until the United Kingdom is no longer a part of the European Union.
Critics such as Nick Cohen have suggested that CANZUK is a "fantasy" and that the project would not make sense as a geopolitical construct in the 21st Century, here he emphasises the gradual separation that has occurred between each of the states in both legal and political culture since the end of the British Empire. It has been argued that geographical separation limits the value of any such union, in keeping with the mainstream economic opinion that considers the 'distance and the size of trading partners matter more than historical links in determining trading relationships between countries'. Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd reiterated this sentiment, stating that "much as any Australian, Canadian and New Zealand governments of whichever persuasion would do whatever they could to frame new free-trade agreements with the UK, the bottom line is that 65 million of us do not come within a bull’s roar of Britain’s adjacent market of 450 million Europeans."
As a direct result of the major economic, geographical, political and social complexities that differentiate the global outlook of these four states, the level of influence that this bloc would be able to exert would be extremely limited. Only a single country of this bloc (the United Kingdom) has significant military capabilities that can be harnessed to execute foreign policy objectives. It is also the only state to retain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, thereby failing to allow the bloc to effectively influence international diplomatic issues. The size of the UK economy is considerably bigger than those of each of the other 3 countries, which negates the bloc's ability to effectively exert economic influence.
An editorial in Canada's The Globe and Mail, which described CANZUK as "a silly name", pointed out that those Commonwealth countries with which advocates of Brexit were most enamoured were "ex-Dominions where white people predominate", and that even if it were broadened to include populous countries like Nigeria and India, the group had "nowhere near the latent appetite for trade with Britain that would make the scheme credible". In an article published in the New York Times in April 2018, historian Alex von Tunzelmann stated that "no doubt, the advocates of reviving Britain’s links with Canada, Australia and New Zealand can cite myriad reasons that have nothing to do with racism to explain why South Africa, India, Pakistan or the Caribbean nations are just different. Still, majority-nonwhite nations will notice if they are treated as them rather than us, because this will not be the first time that has happened."
In academia, Duncan Bell criticises contemporary 'Anglospheric discourse' and concludes that modern political commentary is "a pale imitation of previous iterations" lacking broad spectrum support across the political left-right dichotomy. International affairs professor Srdjan Vucetic expands on this idea further, describing CANZUK as "the latest variant of a long line of projects seeking to consolidate the British settler empire, projects that were until deep into the second half of the twentieth century justified in explicitly racist terms" and questioned the viability of a CANZUK defence pact without the inclusion of the United States, as in the Five Eyes and ABCANZ alliances.
Public opinion polling conducted by research firm YouGov in 2015 found that 58 per cent of British people would support freedom of movement and work between the citizens of the United Kingdom and the citizens of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, with 19 per cent opposed to the idea and 23 per cent undecided - with support for the proposals found in all four countries of the United Kingdom. The research also found that British people valued free mobility between the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand more than they valued free mobility between the United Kingdom and the European Union at 46 per cent to 35 per cent. Other polling from different research firms were not conducted.
Opinion poll surveys commissioned by the Royal Commonwealth Society in 2016 found that 70 per cent of Australians said they were supportive of the proposal, with 10 per cent opposed to it; 75 per cent of Canadians said they supported the idea and 15 per cent were opposed to it and 82 per cent of New Zealanders stated that they supported the idea, with 10 per cent opposed. All of the respective provinces, states and territories of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand registered majority support for the proposals.
Further polling of 2,000 people conducted in January 2017 found support for free movement of people and goods with certain limitations on citizens claiming tax-funded payments on entry across the Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, with undecideds included. Support in Australia was at 72 per cent, 77 per cent in Canada, 81 per cent in New Zealand, and 64 per cent in the United Kingdom.
Opinion polling of 13,600 respondents from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom conducted between January and March 2018 found increased support for reciprocal free trade and movement of people between the countries when compared to 2017, with support at 73 per cent in Australia (up 1 per cent); 76 per cent in Canada (down 1 per cent); 82 per cent in New Zealand (up 1 per cent); and 68 per cent in the United Kingdom (up 4 per cent). The opinion polling indicated greater support for the proposals in the North and South Islands of New Zealand at 83 per cent and 81 per cent support respectively; British Columbia and Ontario in Canada at 82 per cent and 80 per cent support respectively; and New South Wales and Victoria in Australia at 79 per cent support each, while lesser support was observed in the province of Quebec in Canada at 63 per cent support; Northern Ireland and Scotland in the United Kingdom at 64 per cent and 66 per cent support respectively; and Western Australia at 65 per cent support.
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