The UK House of Commons discuss Global Britain and CANZUK.
12:14:55 – 12:27:50
May I follow up the point that my right hon. Friend has just made, very eloquently? CANZUK—consisting of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and ourselves—has the potential to play a considerable role. What are the Government’s plans to strengthen our CANZUK relationship in respect of trade and free movement, as well as other issues of mutual interest?Bob Seely
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When we entered the EU, those close relationships with allies such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia fundamentally became less close. We have a huge opportunity, as we leave the EU, to build better relationships. We have already named Australia and New Zealand as two of our priority trading partners, and we want to work with Canada, particularly on accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, so that we can build up those strong relationships.Elizabeth Truss
14:47:45 – 14:56:28
Speaking in this debate on global Britain the day before we leave the European Union, I feel a sense of pride and relief. I do not mean nationalistic pride, as some suggest was the motivation for those who, like me, campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union. I mean pride that democracy has won and that this Government are delivering on the result of the 2016 referendum.
Having been a candidate in a certain by-election that took place just two weeks after the elections to the European Parliament, I have first-hand experience of how unforgiving the electorate can be on this issue. I also have a sense of relief that Britain can now move on—yes, move on politically, but also move on to reclaim our role as a global free trading nation. However, as many Members have said today, that comes with global responsibilities. I want to highlight three elements: the role that we can now play in strengthening ties with the Commonwealth and how that can deliver for Britain, why the UK should deeply appreciate the contribution of our overseas territories and dependencies and we must never forget their importance for this country, and why being outward-looking and globally ambitious can deliver for my constituency and the rest of the UK.
As a newly elected Member of Parliament, I have joined the all-party parliamentary group for Australia and New Zealand, the British-Canada all-party parliamentary group, the all-party parliamentary group for the Commonwealth, and the CANZUK all-party parliamentary group. CANZUK is an acronym, referring to closer theoretical, political and economic ties between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and, of course, the UK.Paul Bristow
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that we should have the closest possible ties with our friends in the Commonwealth.Greg Smith
As I have said, however, I think we should look more broadly to the Commonwealth. No other countries in the world share as much, socially or economically, as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. We all share the same Head of State, have highly developed economies, share a common-law legal system, co-operate under the Five Eyes agreement for defence and security, share the same parliamentary systems, speak the same majority language, embrace human rights and western values, and even share common ancestry through historical bonds. With approval rates of 68% in the UK, 73% in Australia, 76% in Canada and 82% in New Zealand, CANZUK is an idea whose time has come. As the UK leaves the EU, I encourage Ministers to work with their counterparts in the other countries and explore that concept.
Let me make two suggestions for how we might make a start. First, the UK might join or at least develop closer links with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trading arrangement. Secondly, we could start to become more flexible in relation to the visa arrangements that currently exist with, for example, Canada under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, and introduce a sort of professional mobility visa. I know how difficult these arrangements can be, as the former owner of a professional communications company who wanted to employ who he wanted to employ. Let us look into visa arrangements with CANZUK countries that might benefit from intra-company transfers, investment visas and independent professionals.
Central to the goal of revitalising the UK on the world stage is the wider Commonwealth. We must prioritise these historic relationships. The Commonwealth should no longer just be seen as a “nice to have”, but should be considered crucial to the Government’s vision of an outward-looking global Britain. The Government are pursuing the biggest strengthening of the diplomatic network in a generation, opening up 14 new and upgraded posts including, crucially, nine Commonwealth posts. That will include 1,000 new jobs, and it shows that the Government are on the right path towards solidifying the crucial relationships with our friends in the Commonwealth.
I also want briefly to show my support for the UK’s territories and dependencies, whose importance to this country should not be downplayed. The UK should be proud of the way in which they have succeeded in developing their own economies and becoming mostly self-sufficient, without requiring financial help from the UK taxpayer.
Last week I went to a meeting at which the representatives of each territory and dependency had a chance to speak. I left feeling very impressed by their ambition and loyalty to the UK, and very much more knowledgeable about them. One comment left a strong impression, and I thought it worth putting on the record in the House. What price would a country like China or Russia pay for a geographical network of territories of great strategic importance and with loyal local populations, like the one that the UK has and enjoys? Let us show those territories how much we value them.
I once coined the phrase “Think Brexit, think Peterborough” as a way of trying to get local people and businesses in my constituency to think about the opportunities presented by Brexit, but perhaps I should now say “Global Peterborough”. We are on the east coast mainline railway heading north, and will soon be just 40 minutes from London. We are also on the A1, the main north-south artery. Our east-west routes are strong. We have been a headquarters for global international brands, and my city is diverse with communities from across the world. We are a British city, but we are also a global city, and we can take advantage of that to step forward on to the world stage again.
The UK’s place as Europe’s top destination for foreign direct investment has been sustained. It has held that position since 2003. Between April 2017 and March 2019, the Department for International Trade supported 3,118 individual investments in the UK and 120,000 new jobs. The UK has attracted more projects, new jobs and investment than any other European country, and now it is time for Peterborough to take its fair share of that.
Peterborough has many EU citizens including, historically, a big Italian population and more recently a large number of eastern Europeans. I am confident that the Peterborough Conservatives will soon elect our first Lithuanian councillor when the magnificent and hard-working Ruta Dalton wins in Gunthorpe ward in the local elections this May. We are one city, and that is as a result of the big and valuable contribution that our European populations in Peterborough have made.
I am pleased that the Government’s settled status scheme will help to secure EU citizens’ rights in this country. So far, there have been 2.7 million applicants, and 2.5 million have been told that they can stay after Brexit. Just six have been rejected on the ground of criminality. This quick and easy system will be of great comfort to my constituents in Peterborough. The message is loud and clear: we value your contribution and we want you to stay.
It is time to be confident for the future of our country and to think globally and think big. I often say the same thing when I talk about my city, but the same applies to our country, so let us move forward with optimism and build on and deepen our historical relationships with the Commonwealth. It is also time for businesses to be confident and seize the new exporting and trade opportunities. The Government cannot do it for them, but we are here to help and support them as we enter a new chapter of our country’s history.Paul Bristow
15:52:49 – 16:12:40
There has been much talk about global Britain, and last year I and others published “Global Britain: A Twenty-First Century Vision”, which I circulated to many MPs this week. Unfortunately, I came third in a tight field of three in the race to be Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, but I hope that was a comment on me, rather than on my work, which I hope is still useful.
That study contained 20 ideas, one or two of which have been mentioned by other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart), who spoke about the importance of the United Nations. The United Kingdom has arguably been the world’s greatest nation at developing alliances throughout our history. Indeed, we would not have done so well in the last two world wars if those alliances had not been in place. Whether NATO, our close relationship with Europe now that we are not part of the European Union, or CANZUK, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Paul Bristow) eloquently referred, there is a wealth of alliances that we could be building.Bob Seeley