Estimates suggest there are over 2.1 billion people generating an estimated $9 trillion combined GDP, across all inhabited continents throughout the 53 states that make up the Commonwealth. Though not all states are equal by any means, this is still a huge untapped market of possibility. In this article I want to argue that the politics of the future will need a substantive space for discussing the Commonwealth and Britain’s position within it for economic, geo-political and social reasons, (in that order). I think with Ukip, a new relationship with the Commonwealth holds the key to the future of Britain. Let me explain.
Anxiety remains high over world economic development and indeed UK growth. It is not clear where future growth will come from, who will bring it about and what it will look like. Some say technological advancement will reap wide-ranging rewards; others say emerging markets hold the key, others say there is no clear pathway and that the current approach of maintaining what we are doing will remain for the short to medium term. Though this mixed picture may be true what is needed is a powerful movement, backed by a clear vision to redefine the limits and possibility of our economic and social interaction with the Commonwealth states. Except for a badly-overlooked report from the Foreign Affairs Committee in 2012-13, the vision for the Commonwealth has floundered in the recent decade with little to no forward thinking , coupled with a dangerous slide into internecine disputes about human rights violations and the wording of a potential charter. The report recognised the marginalisation of the concept and economic possibility the Commonwealth offered, said little about how to rectify this and even less was actually done by a vacuous Government.
There may be important issues for discussion about human rights, democracy and the rule of law but you cannot eat ‘values’ and the urgency, fostered upon us by the recent economic crisis, lack of political ideas and the ever-rising discontent with outdated politicians, necessitates a more focused approach. This will not be an approach dominated by the power of some over the many or the arrogance of one’s values over another, that time is gone and there is no appetite to work again for a past that is a mixture of error and glory. The future is open and waiting for us – Ukip will seize the day!
There is an old saying: ‘If you give a man a fish he can feed his family for a day; teach him to fish and he can feed his family every day…’ It is urgent that the British government redirect funds away from aid that does not develop life-long skills in places it is not needed for people who don’t really want it and reinvigorate trade and commerce through free trade agreements, incentives for UK business to market themselves in Commonwealth markets and more robust Government support for strengthening commercial capacity in emerging markets through skill collaboration and investment. Key countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and India want to trade with dignity with our small businesses, young people and energetic entrepreneurs. Can we sharing skills in forensic policing, school curricular, health and technology? The Commonwealth is more than a useful symbol of ‘togetherness’ and it would be far too easy to conclude that continuing membership of the EU negates its value. Our very participation in all things ‘commonwealth’ simply spur us on to make the meaning concrete, active and alive.
Though many problems will remain to be faced and issues debated, the time really is ripe for a dynamic, confident, articulate Britain to regain, renegotiate and redesign a prosperous and productive ‘new relationship’ with all the power and possibility the great nations of the Commonwealth offer, what are we waiting for?