Letter: Little to be gained from a federation of English-speaking states

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The Independent Online
Sir: It would be a tragic mistake to believe Britain's long-term political, economic and defence interests can be secured by indulging in romantic nostalgia for a world that has moved on. This is the weakness in Professor Anatole Beck's suggestion that an English-speaking confederation be formed between Britain, the United States and the old white Commonwealth. It completely fails to address some very real questions.

First, why would they want it? How would the United States benefit from such a confederation? Just two weeks ago, Henry Kissinger was in London speaking about "the special relationship" in the past tense and saying the description should now be transferred to Europe as a whole. It seems hardly likely that Australia's Prime Minister, Paul Keating, is going to embrace the idea, as his country seemingly moves towards becoming a republic.

Beyond a common British imperial history, which has left genuine ties of family and friendship, what interests do these countries really have in common today? Trade patterns of the old empire broke down as formerly colonial countries saw new opportunities for cheaper imports and more lucrative exports. Australia and New Zealand are geographically and economically part of Asia. Canada is part of North America. Both areas have expanding economies and are liberalising trade. In security terms, the interests of Australia and New Zealand are entirely different from Britain. In the post-Cold War era, it is clear the United States expects Europe to take more responsibility for its own defence needs. Canada has already pulled back. Why should they see any advantage in Britain's moving away from Europe's common defence?

If Britain continues to indulge in post-imperial fantasies, we will never make a success for our membership of the European Union. It is in our interests to work with those countries in our own neighbourhood, which share political, security and economic interests to get the best deal we can. Of course, the European Union is not perfect. It has institutional weaknesses and makes policy mistakes. But it shares these characteristics with all political communities including the United Kingdom. We in this country must get stuck into the process of reform as a constructive member of the European Union. Day-dreaming about an idealised past will just not do.

Yours faithfully,

STEPHEN WOODARD

Director

European Movement,

United Kingdom

London, SW1

11 April

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