What is the CANZUK campaign?
In January 2015, James Skinner, founded The Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation (CFMO), now known as CANZUK.
The initial proposal by the Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation stated that there should be unrestricted travel between the aforementioned countries due to the similar political, cultural, historic and linguistic ties shared by each nation.
Out of 67,000 people who voted in the initial poll, more than 90 per cent said they were in favour of the idea while more than 50,000 people signed an online petition created by CANZUK in favour of the change. Today, the CANZUK petition has been signed by over 300,000 people, with increasing numbers voicing their support each year. According to the organisation’s Twitter page, 82% of New Zealanders support freedom of movement with Canada, Australia and the UK.
CANZUK is run by British national, James Skinner, who was frustrated in his attempts to live permanently in Australia, having lived there as a temporary resident for a few years. Mr Skinner, who now lives in Vancouver, Canada, although again not on a permanent visa, believes that politicians in Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand should loosen restrictions on visas and work permits between the four countries.
Pointing out the European Union as a model for his proposal, and a similar policy already in place in Australia and New Zealand, he believes that the long history and Commonwealth connections of the four countries make them ideal for a similar agreement. “We’ve had that Commonwealth tie for generations and decades in the past, we’ve stuck together through thick and thin, [we] share the same head of state, the same native language, the same respect for the common law,” he argues. “It’s not something completely out there that we’re proposing,” Skinner says he plans to send the petition to politicians in New Zealand and Australia, and then to the Canadian and British governments, pending elections in each respective country.
However, although a hugely popular idea, a general consensus appears to be that any such deal could be years in the making and governments of all four countries are unlikely to prioritise such discussions, making the chances of any such agreement ever being implemented even more remote.
Political reaction to CANZUK
Whilst the chances of freedom of movement between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK remain slim, many politicians within each of these countries have declared their support for the CANZUK campaign.
Several leaders within Canada’s Conservative party have stated their support for CANZUK over the years, with current leader Erin O’Toole labelling the proposal as a ‘no brainer’, highlighting that Canada currently allows freedom of movement with the US and should extend the benefit to its other closest allies.
James Paterson, Senator for Victoria, published an article back in 2017 declaring his support for free trade and movement across Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. He stated that with Australia, New Zealand and Canada all lining up to sign post-Brexit trade agreements with the UK, we have an opportunity to push for a wide-ranging agreement between all four Commonwealth nations.
Winston Peters, leader of the New Zealand first party, called for a Commonwealth free trade agreement based on the existing one held between New Zealand and Australia, suggesting the inclusion of the UK and Canada as well as South Africa and India, highlighting the need for closer economic Commonwealth relations.
Back in 2012, a bill was put forward in UK parliament involving “subjects of Her Majesty’s realms to enter the United Kingdom through a dedicated channel at international terminals” which included Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Whilst the bill was supported by a number of notable MP’s, the bill failed to pass and was not progressed any further.
Whilst there appears to be plenty of support for the CANZUK campaign, with so many global issues currently taking precedent, mainly COVID-19 and Brexit, it appears that the movement will be placed on the back burner for some time. One thing that remains inherently clear is that CANZUK supporters will continue to voice their beliefs until progress comes to fruition.
You can find out more information about CANZUK and sign the petition by clicking here.