Which countries do Britons regard most favourably? Our neighbours and partners in the EU? Our ally and protector, the United States? Chatham House and YouGov has polled opinion on this, and results are consistent over time – and not close. There are three countries Britons regard enormously more favourably than anyone else – Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Each of these gets around 45 per cent favourability ratings and approximately zero unfavourability. The next closest is the US, with over 30 per cent favourability and around 10 per cent unfavourability, comparable on net balance with the best European performer, the Netherlands, at around 25 per cent favourability and 1 per cent unfavourability. Interestingly, another English-speaking country, Ireland, gets only around 20 per cent favourability (and 10 per cent unfavourability) suggesting (if the US example weren’t enough) that the attitude to Australia, New Zealand and Canada is not purely one of common language, history and race. Neither, given India gets only around 5% favourability and 10 per cent unfavourability, can it be seen as a Commonwealth linkage.
With Britain having joined the EEC (now EU) in 1973, it is remarkable that such overwhelmingly favourable attitudes to these three countries remains – two generations of intimate social, economic and political intercourse with our European friends and neighbours has not made Britons anything like as favourably inclined to anyone in Europe as they continue to be to Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
At some level, the reason is obvious: Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders are “Britons abroad” – sundered brethren. Perhaps the Irish and the Americans have some of that as well, but the Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders never turned against Britain. Visiting these countries, Britons feel they know how people think – they comprehend them in a way quite different from that in France or Brazil or Pakistan. Obviously there is a racial mix similarity element, though the mix is not identical (relative to the UK there are, at least in many areas, more Chinese visible in Canada and Australia, whilst in New Zealand about 20 per cent of the population is Maori or Pacific Islander). These countries have the same (German) royal family that Britain does – and it is good for the position of the royals in those countries to remember that it is not an English royal family. (On that note, I think it a great shame to see Prince Harry nakedly supporting England at the Rugby, and am also disappointed he does not appear to have been advised (or at least to take any advice) to seek an Australian or Canadian spouse.)
If/When Britain leaves the EU (as seems extremely likely to me, regardless of any referendum in 2017, because of the formation of the Single European State), it will want new friends in the world. Collectively, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK (let us call this “CANZUK”) would have a surface area larger than Russia, the fourth largest economic area in the world (around $6tr), around 60 per cent of the trade volume of the US, and a GDP/capita higher than that of the US. A CANZUK federation would be an economic and political alliance with those countries to which Britons are overwhelmingly more favourably inclined than anyone else – and have remained so for many decades after making more intimate economic and political deals with others. Our CANZUK partners would be much our closely constitutional matches.
If we want new friends after leaving the EU – and we will – the first place to look should be our sundered brethren, with whom we would be collectively strong and naturally mesh.