The British Empire will rise again! Or, perhaps not

The British Empire will rise again! At least in the fevered imaginations of elderly expatriate Englishmen.

I was rather amused to see John Derbyshire’s post at Unz Review floating a suggestion for  an Anglo-Australian-NZ-Canadian alliance which he calls CANZUK. He goes further, suggesting it might also include the U.S. and it would then become CANZUKUS. The reasoning behind it is presumably that Brexit will leave Britain in desperate need of friends and trading partners.

This seems to me to be one of the most spectacularly silly and wrong-headed ideas I’ve heard for a very long time. In fact it’s a combination of several silly ideas.

Firstly, it’s yet another example of inane British fantasising about the lost glories of their Empire, and the good old days when Britain still counted for something. Maybe the Empire was glorious, maybe it wasn’t (that’s a whole different can of worms), but there’s one thing for certain – the Empire is dead. Derbyshire seems to think that the Empire could be recreated around the nucleus of the white Dominions. That’s an idea that might have had some merit in the 1930s. Maybe even in the 50s, except that the U.S. had made it quite clear that the British Empire was not going to be permitted to exist in any meaningful form, and it certainly was not going to be permitted to exist as a trading bloc. In any case the British were desperate to join the Common Market and turn their backs on the Dominions and the Dominions are not ever going to forget that. Now that things that have turned sour with Britain’s cool new European friends they can’t expect the friends they were so anxious to dump to forgive and forget. Britain, like the U.S., is not a nation that one could regard as a trustworthy friend.

The notion of extending this fantasy alliance to include the U.S. is the revival of the absurd and dangerous Churchillian nonsense of the English Speaking Peoples. The reality is that while the English Speaking Peoples might share some common history they have no economic, political or military interests in common. They never did.

Derbyshire is also buying into an even more absurd and even more toxic Churchillian idea, that of the Special Relationship between Britain and the United States. In fact it was never anything but wishful thinking on Churchill’s part. There were some deluded fools who persuaded themselves that there was a Special Relationship between the U.S. and Australia. These Special Relationships were nothing more than the relationships between an empire and its vassal states.

Australia no longer has anything but vague sentimental ties to Britain and even those ties are fading fast. Australia is also beginning to realise that its relationship to the U.S. is not particularly important and is going to become steadily less important.

Neither CANZUK nor CANZUKUS has anything to offer Australia. Australia would be well advised not to become entangled with failed states like Britain, and would be well advised also to distance itself from the U.S. Empire.

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