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I cannot think of a more pointless organisation than the Commonwealth, (oh sorry yes I can the Church of England) How many trade agreements does the UK have with the commonwealth errrr none, defence agreements errr none, (the nearest is incidental Canada and the UK are both members of NATO) time to put the Commonwealth where it belongs in the dustbin of history.

Yes I too can not see the point of the Commonwealth other than a vehicle for the British establishment to exercise their guilty conscience from colonialism and to perpetuate that guilt trip.

I would be interested to see some specifics from Hague. The Commonwealth could be a valuable group for Britain but it's been many years since it's been so.

maybe if we weren't so shakled to Europe then the Commonweath would be far more relevent today.

remember we used to have trade agreements with the commonwealth before we joined the common market - they forced us to give them up.

ideally i would like to see more commonwealth co-operation on a whole range of issues including a common defence and trade policy. this speech by hague is a welcome one.

to shane

All attempts to develope commonwealth trade failed, the Joseph Chamberlain idea never took off.

Canada moved ever closer to the USA, (NAFTA) Australia its major trade links are now with Asia. Imperial preference was a disaster and of course was against, 'free market' principles.

Even the much vaunted and grossly over sentimental belief the Commonwealth/Dominions etc helped the UK win in WW1 and WW2 is nonsense. The UK's worldwide committments were an obstacle to victory not an aid.

I recommend you read Corelli Barnetts, 'Audit of War'

I suspect this is just a soundbite and Hague is being duplicitous. There was a time when the Commonwealth meant something and could have been the basis for a continuing free trade area and a much more enlightened one than the EU fortress by the way.

However, the British political class, including Hague as revealed by his recent statements, basically chucked it aside and gave their allegience to Brussels. The British people never did of course and the idea of Commonwealth still resonates with many. Hence the cheap soundbite.

By the way, the proper title of the thing is the British Commonwealth. The word British used here is crucial for it is the only thing the component countries have in common.The downgrading of the title, like the downgrading of of Great Britain to Bri'ain, which the Conservatives have also subscribed to enthusiastically, is the giveaway and parallels the decline of their conviction.

So Hague will offer Commonwealth citizens the same right to free movement into the UK as EU citizens?

Thought not. Soundbite City. Hague will continue the policy of letting in anyone from the EU but imposing tough limits on the Commonwealth.

Fantastic news, the Commonwealth is very underused and could add alot to Britain's outlook on the world. We spend alot of time on our nasty neighbours and forget that out there is a whole long lost family. All we need now is a new Royal Yacht and we could be in business - an idea Mr Hague?

The British Commonwealth died a long time ago and it's a pity that so many who comment on it talk about history.

Please, let's forget the Royal Yacht and concentrate on the good work which it does in encouraging democracy and good governance, assisting small countries in trade matters, providing assistance with legal matters, helping countries to retain staff in health and education and encouraging greater awareness of human rights.

It has a good record and achieves a lot on a tiny budget. It is one of the few organisations which gives countries from all continents and all sizes the chance to play a part.

The Labour Government's record on the Commonwealth is pretty poor. It's time for the UK to play a bigger role.

The Commonwealth has been an albatross round the UK's neck for too long - a nostalgic romantic dream. The modern world has moved on and Conservative foreign policy should move with it.

"Yes I too can not see the point of the Commonwealth other than a vehicle for the British establishment to exercise their guilty conscience from colonialism and to perpetuate that guilt trip."

Let's not forget that the commonwealth included such important Nations as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
If we are really going to reverse our integration into the E.U. we will need to increase our Trading links with these important Nations. For obvious geographical reasons, Europe will always be an important place to sell our goods. Joining the EU has resulted in us neglecting our cousin Nations in the Commonwealth. I believe that the Commonwealth can become the backbone of a resurgence of Britain as an exporting nation.
Without a doubt many goods are cheaper for our consumers, if imported from NZ,OZ or Canada.

India, Canada, Malaysia, to name but a few, are not a romantic fiction, they are fast growing dynamic economies with which we share language, culture and law and a global outlook. In business trade is global, there are huge opportunities which are businesses are taking hold of, we need the FCO to catch up. Also in Defence and Foreign policy the Commonwealth uniquely covers some of the areas vital to British interests. There is far more affection for the Commonwealth in the newer members than in Britain which is bizarre and a shame. Mr Hague is dead right – just imagine if the Commonwealth was French, we would never hear the end of it!

This isn't another attempt by the Conservative Party to distance itself from the EU is it, Ken Clarke might have a word to say about that.

George its a delusion, the Commonwealth is dead, there'll never be another Royal Yacht, (unless the Windsors buy it themselves) its over.

There were some Cabinet Ministers in Margaret Thatcher's government who were influenced by Barnett's works. Sir Keith Joseph, Education Secretary from 1981 to 1986, admired Barnett's work about the anti-business culture in education and in an interview with Anthony Seldon he proclaimed: "I'm a Correlli Barnett supporter".[22] Nigel Lawson, Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1983 to 1989, also cited Barnett's views on education as an influence, specifically The Audit of War.[23] In 1995 when Michael Heseltine became Deputy Prime Minister in John Major's Cabinet, he presented each member of the Cabinet with copies of Barnett's The Lost Victory.

Read and understand.

The Commonwealth is completely pointless.

Half the nations in it are corrupt and Britain's influence on them is minimal.

It's simply a relic from the days of Empire, but it serves no useful purpose today.

I wouldn't be fussed if the Commonwealth just broke up and ended.

The Commonwealth was tossed aside in favour of the EU many years ago; it was one of the conditions of entry. In case Mr Hague forgets, it was Ted Heath who ditched the Commonwealth in the first instance. Paradise lost?

The reasons for this new party line seem obscure, to me at least. We cannot be full members of the EU and another trading/defence organisation unless it is with the blessing of the EU and therefore in line with the African/Mediterranean bloc and the North/South American bloc.

One aside: I understand that citizens of the Commonwealth are entitled to a British passport and citizenship. If the proposed expansion goes ahead, will this still apply?

I read an interesting document at the weekend which was discussed at Davos.

"The implications of institutions of global governance can be heavy for sovereign states."

"Five countries, three regions, one world."

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is not mentioned.


Is it not time for cards to be laid on the table? Is it not time for integrity to make a come-back so the electorate know EXACTLY what they are voting for? "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."

Hague is right that the Commonwealth has considerable potential in foreign policy.

But I note (at least in the extract Jonathan Isaby quoted above) that Hague fails to mention trade. Of course we have given that away to the EU and we no longer control our trade policy nor our trade agreements.

I read the transcript of Hague's interview with Andrew Marr yesterday in which he backs the EU - no hint of any softening.

In order to join the then EEC Heath cruelly and maliciously dumped the Commonewealth. The Conservative Party has a lot to atone for and shows not one sign of doing so - it appears to be totally wedded to the EU.

And once Lisbon has been fully ratified what then? It will be the EU's foreign policy not British. Hague does not mention that either.

Those who denigrate the Commonwealth are short-sighted. Outside Britain its importance is valued by countries such as Mozambique which are keen to join despite never having been part of the British empire.

It is underused, but could potentially be of great importance. Britain's special relationship with India, in particular, should be cultivated as something which is potentially of great importance in years to come.

There is indeed vast potential to be unlocked, & this is something we would do well to remember in years to come.

The Tories turned their backs on the Commonwealth in 1973.

"Even the much vaunted and grossly over sentimental belief the Commonwealth/Dominions etc helped the UK win in WW1 and WW2 is nonsense."

Your obnoxious ignorance of the debt we in this country (including YOU) owe to the Commonwealth dead of two world wars disgusts me.
Pleae, please please tell me you are not a Conservative.

The fact that the citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Jamaica freely chose in referenda to share their head of state with us suggests something I think.

If we were ever given the choice of "ever closer union" with these countries, or with the EU, then who do you think we would chose? Take a look at the emigration preferences of young British people. The FCO website says there are only 230,000 British citizens working in the EU. I can't find the exact equivalent number for the major Commonwealth countries but based on British expatriate population statistics I would estimate it to be close to a million, i.e. 4 times the EU figure.

Canada would love us to join NAFTA, and Australia and New Zealand would want to have free trade with us again. They are not in "exclusive" trade arrangements.

The EU was all about the cold war and the anti-Americanism of British leaders in the 60s and 70s. David1 and Northern Monkey - hopefully its your tired old 70s world which is going.

Susan said "I understand that citizens of the Commonwealth are entitled to a British passport and citizenship."

You understand incorrectly.

The EU has of course been an American-sponsored project from the start, Mark. And it was of course the Tories who gave us the Treaty of Rome, the Single European Act and the Maastrcht Treaty.

Whether in goods, services, capital or labour, the United Kingdom should give absolute priority to British goods, services, capital and labour. Then to the Irish Republic, to those Commonwealth countries having the monarch as Head of State, and to Fiji for so long as the same person is both our monarch and her Paramount Chief. Then to the rest of the Commonwealth, and to such other countries as may come into a comparable relationship with the Crown. And then to the rest of the world.

British law can be made to override EU law (which it should always do anyway) simply by a resolution of the House of Commons to that effect. The clause is clearly there.

Nowhere produces everything, or necessarily enough of anything, so there would still be trade.

Thank you Dan at 16.01. Can you elaborate?

Completely wrong David Lindsay.

European law is superior to the laws of its member states and has been since 1969 (four years before we joined).

And you're saying we should base our entire trading policy on which countries have the Queen as their Head of State? I've never heard anything so utterly ridiculous.

And since Australia are about to ditch the monarchy, presumably you won't want us to be giving them preference anytime soon.

We give trading priority to Europe because it's geographically closest to us. We already have a full single market with the EU, and that will never be replicated in the Commonwealth. I doubt anyone in this country would accept free movement of labour with Pakistan or Botswana.

We're in a globalised world, Northern Monkey so, surely, that means we can trade unrestricted with the world?

Can we trade without restriction or tariff outside of the EU?

You're looking up your own monkey arse if you think the EU is the way forward.

"European law is superior to the laws of its member states and has been since 1969 (four years before we joined)"

But the first clause of the legislation taking us in establishes exactly the situation that I described, although, alas, the House of Commons has never availed itself of this power. But it should, and should routinely, just as the Parliament of the United Kingdom should routinely enact legislation across all policy areas with effect throughout the United Kingdom, as it remains perfectly entitled to do.

"And you're saying we should base our entire trading policy on which countries have the Queen as their Head of State?"

Of course. They are our family. If we and they do not want to become (most obviously) Chinese culturally and politically, then we must band together and stop ourselves from becoming (most obviously) Chinese economically.

"And since Australia are about to ditch the monarchy"

No, they are not. Not least beacuse traditional Labor voters there are dead against it, and they have a history of secession when the Labor Party gets too meterosexual for them and starts trying to do that sort of thing instead of dealing with poverty, squalor, indolence, ignorance and ill-health. But let there be referendum after referendum, there will always be the same result.

The only possible change to the arrangements that I set out would be if a new body were created parallel to the Commonwealth, also ceremonially headed by the monarch and having his or her Realms and territories as the core members, but open to anywhere, regardless of any connection or otherwise to the British Empire, that wanted to make a (basically Christian) stand against European federalism, American military-industrial hegemony (which the Americans themselves have now rejected at the polls), globalisation, and the rise of China.

Italy probably wouldn’t join, but Portugal (and Poland) probably would. And member-states’ citizens should at least have parity with those of Commonwealth countries not headed by the Queen.

William Hague, over to you?

"One are in which he is especially keen for the Commonwealth to play a role is as a "conduit for certain reform initiatives in the Arab world", noting that Commonwealth countries contain approximately 500 million Muslims.2

I thought Turkey with 80m has been earmarked for this role as a future member of the EU.

Susan, what a foul mouth you have.

The EU has plenty of free-trade deals, as I'm sure you know. The US is an independent country, yet check out how few free-trade deals it has around the world. There's no reason why the UK would fare any better on it's own. In fact, as a much smaller nation with little economic clout, it would fare much worse. Plus we'd have to pay for the privilege of trading with Europe without having any influence on the rules.

The EU is our present and future. Even Hague knows that won't change.

And David Lindsay, I don't know what planet you're on but it isn't the same as the rest of us.

The vast majority of Australians want a republic, and in fact pressure is being put on PM Rudd to call a referendum soon. They want a directly elected President, and as soon as a referendum is called, they'll get it.

No rational person would base trade policy on something so trivial as who is their head of state. We are a European nation and most of our trade is with Europe. That will not change.

NorthernMonkey, Australia is not about to have a referendum anytime soon. And Rudd isn't pushing the issue.

Rudd did not campaign for a republic in 1999 when he was a Labor MP (his electorate voted No, by the way). When asked his view as PM, he said it was "party policy" - the line of "lifelong republican" came later (presumably after being advised to do so).

Rudd has indicated there is no plan for a referendum because he knows there could be an electoral backlash:

And even were there are a referendum, I doubt it would succeed. This fellow lefty republican of yours explains why here in the Canberra Times:

Try again, sport.

"The Tories turned their backs on the Commonwealth in 1973"

I agree. We took the wrong path. In my opinion the two biggest errors we made in the 20th century, were joining the then common market and abandoning the gold standard. However, it's never to late to change direction is it?

"Yes I too can not see the point of the Commonwealth other than a vehicle for the British establishment to exercise their guilty conscience from colonialism and to perpetuate that guilt trip."

What a fatuous statement.

This apologetic drivel plays into the hands of the 'victim cultures' that have swarmed into this country and are hell bent on taking over.

Far more good came out of the British Colonial adventure than bad.

Posted by: david1 | February 03, 2009 at 10:08 "Even the much vaunted and grossly over sentimental belief the Commonwealth/Dominions etc helped the UK win in WW1 and WW2 is nonsense. The UK's worldwide committments were an obstacle to victory not an aid. I recommend you read Corelli Barnetts, 'Audit of War'"

Blimey, I think this is possibly one of most bizarre/horrific posts ive read for quite some time.

I suggest you read Winston Churchill’s ‘The Second World War’ for details on the Commonwealth nation’s overall contribution & sacrifice before drafting the required apology. It is 6 volumes long however so best get started now eh.


I'm not coming at from the same point of view as Mr. Lindsay.

I think you misunderstood my point about the Head of State (deliberately?)

Any free trade deal (or going further, a free movement of peoples deal) is likely to most robust and sucessful if the economies of the countries involved are complementary rather than competitive, and when it comes to social matters such as migration, share a common "demos" to use the jargon. The common demos is crucial to popular consent.

I think Australia is therefore a much better fit for us than the EU. I simply used the head of state argument to illustrate the demos argument. I could also have used number of family relationships or cricket to make the point.

There will never be a common demos between European countries. The more you push it the more upset people get and paradoxically this is stoking the very xenophobic sentiments the EU project was initially designed to prevent.

Mark, I wasn't referring to you when I was talking about the 'Head of State' argument, I was talking about David Lindsay.

Australia has a population of 25m and is on the other side of the world. The EU has 500m people and is on our doorstep. No rational thinker would consider Australia as a better trade partner.

There already is a 'common demos' across Europe. That's why so many Britons live and work in Europe, and that's why so many Europeans live and work here. We already have a single market including free movement of labour in the EU (and most EU countries have monetary union).

We'll never be able to replicate that in the Commonwealth, not least because most of the countries are already locked into regional trading areas (including us). Plus, as I said very few in this country would accept free movement of labour with Pakistan and Botswana.

So this is nothing more than a pipe dream, based on nostalgia for the Empire. When the Queen dies, it's unlikely that the Commonwealth will even allow Charles to Head the organisation.

And Alexander Drake - yes, Australia IS going to have a referendum soon (likely 2011). There is huge pressure on Rudd to call it, and he himself has explicitly shown his republican beliefs. Even the leader of the opposition Liberal party is a republican. And at the recent Australian 2020 summit, the overwhelming majority supported an elected Australian President. So it is going to happen, sport, no matter how much you may wish otherwise.

Who knows, once Australia topples, Canada and NZ might be next. Barbados has already said it will hold a referendum on republicanism.

"Far more good came out of the British Colonial adventure than bad"

And not just for Britain. India is now on the brink of becoming a super power. Many of the other ex-colonies have done very well since independence. There have been exceptions like Uganda and Rhodesia, but these basket case country cannot be directly blamed on us, rather their own criminal administrations. Rather than wallowing in a kind of PC guilt trip, we should be proud of our past and draw strength from it.

I very much suspect that this is a sop to traditionalists in the party, in the same way as Hague's own promotion as 'deputy' was, a sugarlump to sweeten the taste of Kenneth Clarke's return to the front bench.

That said, I do think the Commonwealth could enjoy increasing significance, because like people have said, it is a link with some of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Dont forget where would we be without the Commonwealth Games? It's one of the only chances the Welsh and Scots Nats get to translate their nationalist fervour into sporting pride!

Northern Monkey 15.34 - I'm sorry I used a word which caused you offence. I hope you have already forgiven me and we can put aside our differences on the EU.

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