Blog: Brexit was a waste of time if we pull up the drawbridge now, says JONATHAN SAXTY – Express

For a country which remains a top five global economy, which is still a major nuclear and military power, and which remains a permanent member of the UN Security Council, splendid isolationism was always a foolish pursuit.

Whoever then is victorious in the Tory leadership election needs to remember that for the advantages of Brexit to be realised, the UK must go global. That, of course, starts with trade, and Liz Truss has made a solid start so far as that is concerned.

But it cannot end there. Instead, the UK needs to reach out to the Commonwealth, a multi-billion-strong family of countries which share the English language, common law and historic ties. Immediately the UK can start with the realms: countries which share the Queen as head of state and commander-in-chief.

This includes Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Combined, the realm countries make up the world’s largest land area and its third largest economy. It is simply absurd that the UK has taken so long to re-engage with these nations.

Time is, of course, of the essence. Last year, Barbados unilaterally declared itself a republic, bringing the number of realms down to 15. There are warning signs that other Caribbean countries may follow.

In the long run this would be devastating for all sides. Why does the UK not then work to develop its Commonwealth bonds?

Time is also of the essence because the Queen – long held in affection across the Commonwealth – is not as young as she used to be.

Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is known for his republican sympathies, yet support for the Queen keeps opposition to ditching the monarchy in Australia strong, for now anyway.

Whoever wins the Conservative leadership ought then to capitalise not just on the “CANZUK” movement to bring Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK closer together, but to outreach to other Commonwealth realms and republics.

At a time of global uncertainty, strengthened Commonwealth bonds would build upon the Five Eyes intelligence alliance between the CANZUK countries and the US, perhaps paving the way for a Commonwealth military alliance, as seen during the Korean War.

The UK could also strengthen its trading relations with growing markets such as India and Nigeria. Global Britain should also be front and centre working with Commonwealth ally, Sri Lanka, as it grapples with debt and devastation.

It is not just forces against Brexit who are a threat to Britain, but also those who would actively isolate the UK, an untenable position in the modern world.

The UK has the advantages of language, its legal system, its higher education sector, the pulling power of London, and more besides.

But none of these matter if the advantages are not capitalised on.

The Tory leadership contest has been a dispiriting affair so far, looking largely inwards, and obsessing over who will cut taxes, by how much, and when.

The public needs to hear big bold ideas beyond rehashing Maggie’s greatest hits. Moving beyond an 80’s soundtrack is crucial on the domestic front, but means thinking big internationally as well.

The UK has a unique opportunity with the Commonwealth. Whoever is the country’s next Prime Minister seriously cannot afford to blow it.

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