The ties that bind


Apparently John McCain has secret plans to kill the United Nations. According to an article in The Independent, McCain plans to set up a 'League of Democracies' to compete with the UN. Johann Hari argues against such a plan on the basis that this will simply serve as a cover for US power. On this point he his probably right (although in his defence of the UN, he is quite wrong). Therefore, instead of a US initiative, the UK should push for an increased role for the Commonwealth of Nations; an institution uniquely well-suited to play a more prominent role in promoting international peace and prosperity.

The model that should be taken is the one that the nascent institutions of Europe followed: free trade and an arena for political dialogue between states. All countries are of course on an equal footing, with countries outside being able to join. After all, Mozambique was admitted despite being a former Portuguese (rather than British) colony. It has even been rumoured that Japan wants to sign up.

As a free trade area, Europe has become a fortress, defined and rightly condemned by the tariffs imposed to keep out cheaper goods in order to prop up the uncompetitive European industries. A Commonwealth free trade area will allow the British to bypass this negative aspect of European integration; allowing cheaper goods into the UK than can be produced within Europe, at the same time as opening up access to the growing consumers in the developing countries of the Commonwealth.

Rather than a US led 'League of Democracies', the Commonwealth could serve to strengthen the ties that bind. However, currently this country is becoming increasingly trapped into an ever-closer political union in Europe. As such, it would take a bold government to push for a competing role for the Commonwealth. And we may have to wait a while for that.