If by CANZUK you mean new trade deals, four of the five eyes, and stronger cultural links with some of what Churchill called “the English-speaking peoples”, we’re all for it.
If by CANZUK you mean free movement, a NATO-type defence union and a single Joe Chamberlain-style economic bloc, our advice is to lie down until the feeling goes away.
The subject is topical because Erin O’Toole, the new Conservative Party leader in Canada, sees CANZUK as “a top priority”. His version is somewhere between the two sketched above.
The first would sit comfortably with another idea whose time has come – the D10, about which James Rogers of the Henry Jackson Society wrote recently on this site, and which Boris Johnson’s Downing Street is rather keen on. Expect it to feature in the Defence and Security Review.
Where NATO is a hard power alliance, the orientation of which is still to confront Russia by military means if necessary, the D10 would be a soft power one, aimed at countering the influence of China.
“You might say that, we couldn’t comment,” a Government insider told ConHome, adding that “the idea is being picked up by a broad listenership, which includes Canada and Australia.”
“There’s some interest in Bidenland. And for the medium-sized powers, there’s security in numbers. The idea’s in the ether, but it could materialise.”
The UK chairs the G7 next year, so the stage is set for the idea to get a push then, after the Defence and Security Review sets the scene.
So: who would be in the D10? CANZUK enthusiasts should note that three of the four potential members would be in it: Canada, Australia and the UK. New Zealand leans towards a different foreign policy orientation.
Then turn to the G7, of which the UK and Canada are already members. Add Australia and South Korea to the United States, Japan, and the three EU country members – France, Germany and Italy – and you have a total of nine.
Finally, there’s India. That’s ten major democracies with different military orientations and economies – but shared democratic values.
One could seek to draw other countries in – such as Spain, for example. But what is being looked for here is a group big enough to work, but not so big as to be unwieldy.
During the Cold War, America and western Europe tended to speak with one voice. Post-war progress, wealth and stability was built on this alliance – expressed in its security dimension by NATO.
That organisation is still adjusting to the collapse of communism – with two members, Greece and Turkey, at loggerheads, and others, such as Turkey and Hungary, moving closer to Russia.
Which imperils NATO’s integrity – but even were it functioning seamlessly, the organisation isn’t shaped to deal with China, not only because of where it sits but because of what it does.
A soft power D10 wouldn’t be a rival to a military alliance. It would differ in purpose to the G20, which contains not just China but Russia too, plus the entire EU. It would take in most of CANZUK, as noted.
At a time when China is expanding its interests through the Belt and Road Initiative, the D10 would offer a counterweight, in terms of investment, capacity-building, aid and the promotion of democratic values.
It could also begin to speak with a common voice at the United Nations, and there would be an obvious crossover with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the UK is keen to join, as our columnist Stephen Booth has reported.
Downsides? The EU countries are not on the same page as America on China – or, to strike a very topical note, on Iran, over which Britain is sticking with the EU position rather than moving towards the American one, having voted recently the former at the UN.
Doubtless part of the diplomatic thinking is the calcuation that Donald Trump may not be in place after November – which may be wrong.
Elsewhere, Narendra Modi is taking India in a different direction from its secular heritage. And it is hard to see how this alliance could conjure up a quick alternative provider to Huawei.
But if you believe that the great post-war alliance between America and western Europe was of value, you will smile on a new means of creating a modern version for a different purpose.