The sun never did sit on the British Empire, but the castle on the hill that it sits above is now ruined. Its colonies have long since left for the most part, and even the closest major ones can be viewed as independent states. Due to vastness of its reaches, the claim that the sun has not set is still true. Yet modern Britain is a shadow of the power of the past. Like every belief, if it is true makes up only one element of the consequences that come from it. One new geopolitical force that is being created stems from a belief. Yet within that very belief is the fact it is not new but the renewal and recovery of a past idea and hope. A restoration of the British Empire in some form in the present day.
Anyone with a basic understanding of history will remember that the British Empire as a power has been seen before. As the largest Empire ruling over significant percentages of the world population it shaped world history. It left a impact on every single people that it interacted with. Some of these such as the establishment of slavery are positive while many of the actions in Africa robbed potential from the pre existing kingdom. Many have said that the death of the British Empire occurred during World War 2 as the Cold War environment only could see two superpowers and many of the damaged European powers no longer able to compete or be involved.
During the Empire with the notable exception of the United States the government system adapted. Before and after World War 1 it was realized that the centralized government in London could not govern all of the people in all of the regions. Solutions where not only planned but put into action. This however was stalled by established people who stood to lose and those who did not want to progress the system. Stagnation robbed the chance for the British Raj (modern day India,Pakistan and Bangladesh) joining any set of treaties that would have had its power shared. With both World Wars the needed reforms and pivot from the existing system did not occur like before and injustices that had always been worked towards being stopped no longer occurred. Before the first shot of the second world war the entire system was at risk.
The breakup of the British Empire did not kill the influence and connection in the Empire. It was the choice to join the European Common Market and move closer to Europe over the Empire. This was voted on in Britain but none of the colonies. New Zealand faced economic crisis for decades as it was cut off from British markets and a country that felt somewhat a part of. The commonwealth and the amount of potential that it held was forgotten for the most part beyond minor cultural events.
Sparks of a Modern Coalition
The discussion around the benefits of the European Union is a complicated one. This article cannot address the complexities of decades of a strange union between two governments. However, an increasing number of individuals in Britain believed that the European Union was not something that suited the people of Britain. Once again the reasons for this are vast. Yet a vote was held and the stunning result that the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union was declared. Quickly it became clear that it needed friends to be able to survive the new state and the quick hostility from the European Nations. At the time the United States under President Obama was unsympathetic with some saying that he was siding with the Europeans. As it was left alone a collection of nations that was anything other the random moved in.
Australia and New Zealand had long had a visa free immigration and other programs that allow the two peoples to move between their country. Australia and Australian think tanks have long argued for more ties with Canada and the United Kingdom. The European Union prevent a large amount of the ideas that were suggested meaning that discussions of Unity with Canada took centre stage. When the choice to leave the EU occurred Australia was one of the first seekings to strike an agreement and if necessary assistance with a newly independent UK. Despite threats in the EU negotiations it was in, the government and people were not willing to abandon the UK. New Zealand also joined in this effort with Canada only somewhat initially.
With the election of Donald Trump, the United States view changed. Britain being abandoned and knocked down by the Europeans was no longer acceptable. Pointing to the long standing relationship President Trump started efforts to acknowledge the special standing of the United Kingdom. Canada was encouraged by this move and changes within the UK government to one that would better fight for a deal. The UK election with a clear majority for Pro Brexit Boris Johnston has further encouraged discussions.
Unexpected Offers and Friends
Signing trade deals with the United Kingdom is different from any Empire or even a forming of a group. Yet already existing within the core of each of the main nations (Australia, New Zealand, Canada) was numerous cultural links and institutions. The monarchy which all have upheld despite numerous challenges in Australia has other institutions built in. Serious discussions now occur at Commonwealth meetings, and numerous agreements and programs link the nations in far more than just free trade. In these discussions, a United foreign policy is increasingly being seen as attractive along with economic links.
To explain why numerous nations want to have a united foreign policy the EU’s action to stop China is the first reason. The United States has a habit of growing distracted and even before the election of Donald Trump an increasing number of people in Australia in New Zealand did not believe that the US would actually help. This has seen an increasing number of new agreements with other countries by Australia such as Japan and India. The UK also finds itself being closed out from Europe and having some more economies behind it could see it stand up for itself easier. Every single member would benefit more from the other’s strength to stand up to larger powers.
Economics are powerful force especially in modern world. The United Kingdoms economy even with Brexit will still be strong. Yet policy planners have noted that if agreement could be stuck with Australia and Canada then amount strength will increase. India and other territories are not as interested into getting into a agreement of diplomacy but economically are very open. With many of the former countries being some of the largest economies any level of unity would be force in the world.
Actual Moves Forward:
The dream of some sort of group has existed before 1945 and after it. Despite decades where it seemed to fade there was always a wish. With more talks it would be easy to assume that nothing is going to change. Yet even in the Covid crisis serious moves are occurring that seem to indicate that nations are taking this possibility more seriously. The UK has taken a much stronger position against China as Australia came under diplomatic attack. Australia and Canada have applied pressure to EU partners when it came to discussions about what to have happen to Britain after leaving the Union. A rare defense agreement and then cooperation has been seen between India and Australia with the UK also going to be a part of this.
Culturally the discussions have picked up. Since Brexit in Australia and New Zealand there has been firm public demand for something to be worked out. It seems even if hardships had to be done that the nations would be willing to undergo it. Within the UK those who view themselves are British first then Europe when asked want to do more with the commonwealth. Within Indian politics a move towards Western cooperation and agreements has reversed early positions moving towards Russia and China. Already before anything has been signed serious changes are occurring. The public spirit and support is surprising for many.
The Path Forward:
It seems impossible that nothing is going to occur on a unity of former British Empire lands. Other nations such as Nigeria, Singapore and Malaysia are also interested in more deals. A group like this would change the balance in a world that is already experiencing change. To expect it to be the exact same with Men in London ruling everything is foolish. Yet even when the men in London ruled everything they knew a change had to occur that would make it even more power. In a time with a rising China and Russia a rising culturally British Union adds another interesting force.