Over the past 30 years the Commonwealth has seemed like a distant friend, the one you see at a dinner party and say you’ll meet for coffee but never end up organising another catch-up. But the Commonwealth is now a friend that we turn our heads to once again.
The world economy has experienced unparalleled change over the last three decades. A huge expansion in international trade has coincided with the emergence of new markets, technologies and the digital revolution.
The world is currently facing another unprecedented period of rapid change. As the IMF predicts, 90 per cent of growth in the next decade or so will be outside the EU, and trade will be central to this shift in economic power.
As an international economic department our goal is to put the UK in a position to benefit: re-defining our trading relationship with Europe and the rest of the world and building a more prosperous country.
If you listen to the dialogue on Brexit, you could be forgiven for forgetting these facts. We are often too focussed on the European Union that we forget that we have been creating historical links to countries across the globe for the past 500 years.
Of course in the short-term turning our backs away from the European Union brings economic costs, but the Commonwealth provides a unique opportunities that only a country like Britain can take advantage of.
The combined gross domestic product of Commonwealth countries is estimated at US$10.4 trillion in 2017 and predicted to reach US$13 trillion in 2020. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand for example, are economic leaders in the Asia Pacific Region. Canada, the world’s 10th largest economy has one of the most unique relationships with the United States in the world.
And what do these countries all have in common? Our Queen is their Queen. We are all connected. Despite what Brexiteers believe, we cannot and should not deny these historical links.
The world has a fondness for not only the Queen but the wider Royal Family. The Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, last month pointed to the idea that the UK should use the younger, vibrant members of the Royal Family to promote British interests abroad. And Perhaps Prince Harry’s new official role within the Commonwealth organisation will have this impact.
The Queen’s relationship with Commonwealth as an organisation is incredibly strong. She has referred to the network as the first “World Wide Web” and views it as her duty to protect the “Great Imperial Family.” In 1961 against all advice, she undertook a successful charm offensive with Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. She negotiated two potentially tricky trips to India, a nation which bore the brunt of Empire’s worst excesses. And in 2011 she became the first British Monarch in 100 years to visit the Republic of Ireland.
It is time we started looking towards the Commonwealth and we should utilise our common connection to get the family to the dinner party. There are opportunities for us if we look to our historical ties, all we have to do is seize them.