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Reimagining the Anglosphere
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Reimagining the Anglosphere

How a free movement zone between the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand could work.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Indonesia, November. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images,)

The United Kingdom’s messy exit from the European Union might not lend itself to the suggestion that London joined another supranational body. But Western unity is more important now than at any other point since the Cold War. Given that the U.K. and the U.S. already have their long established “special relationship,” and that both nations enjoy good relations with the rest of the developed Anglosphere, it’s worth considering what a free movement zone with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (CANZUK-US) would look like. 

How would a free movement zone work?

CANZUK-US would more or less copy one of the “four freedoms” that comes with being a member of the European Union: Any EU citizen can travel to any other country in the union to visit, study, or work without a visa. Moving from one EU country to another is, legally speaking, no more difficult than moving from one U.S. state to another.

A free movement zone would mean that citizens of the CANZUK-US countries would need to present only their passports to enter other countries in the zone, after which they would be allowed to stay for however long they wanted for any reason, so long as they register with authorities and pay any tax liabilities they incur (just as citizens already living in that country do).

What benefits would come with such an arrangement?

All economies involved would benefit from a more efficient allocation of labor and the resulting productivity gains.

 If the U.S. has a shortage of workers in one occupation, surplus workers from other nations could go to the U.S. rather than staying unemployed at home. Similarly, if the going salaries in a given industry in one country are lower relative to other countries, free movement makes it easy for them to move and earn better pay. Likewise, employers facing relatively high labor costs in their own country could look around the rest of the zone for cheaper labor. 

Businesses in the zone would be freed up from hiring immigration lawyers and incurring other administrative expenses that typically result from hiring employees from other countries. And students would enjoy similar benefits, such as avoiding the grueling process of obtaining a student visa. The increased competition could exert downward pressure on tuition costs: Even top universities in the U.K. such as Oxford and Cambridge charge substantially lower tuition fees for international students than colleges like Harvard and Yale charge American students. 

Would this cause unsustainable levels of immigration?

No. All the countries involved are economically developed, high-wage economies. Canada is not Mexico, and Canadians are highly unlikely to be crossing the border in large numbers to work at American meat packing plants or to wash dishes in restaurants. This goes for the rest of the Anglosphere.

While salaries are higher in the U.S. than in any of these countries, CANZUK countries provide their citizens with government benefits that the U.S. does not. As such, many CANZUK citizens would hesitate to move to the U.S., for the simple reason that they would lose access to universal health care. 

Even within a free movement zone, emigration will still be a big, life-changing move, one that requires great effort and planning. Few people are likely to uproot their lives and cross oceans for a raise of 10 to 20 percent, and in most professions that’s about what workers moving to the U.S. can expect. Further, occupational licensing would remain in effect, meaning a doctor, lawyer, or anyone else working in a restricted occupation would have to pass exams or have their credentials translated and approved in order to practice in another CANZUK-US country.

It should also be noted that, with minimum wages higher in the rest of CANZUK than in the U.S., there is likely to be some migration of low-skilled workers out of the U.S. and into the other countries in the zone.

Finally, the CANZUK-US countries are all culturally similar, and share a common language. This will drastically reduce the likelihood of culture clashes otherwise sometimes associated with high levels of immigration.

What about welfare? 

The right to live in a country does not mean the right to access government welfare services on the same conditions as citizens of that country.  Each individual country would be free to decide on restrictions to access taxpayer-funded services. As an American, you would not be able to simply cross the border to Canada and receive taxpayer-funded health care on your first day in the country. In the same way, no-one from CANZUK could move to the U.S. and expect to survive on unemployment benefits while they are looking for a job. Some services and benefits may be available immediately, some only after one or several years of residency, and yet others may even require citizenship.

And how about trade?

A free trade agreement encompassing the CANZUK-US countries would be an ideal complement to a free movement zone, but may be more difficult to implement given the existing trade agreements that each country has. The easiest way, at least initially, to introduce free trade between all the CANZUK-US countries may be for the U.K. and U.S. to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), in which Canada, New Zealand, and Australia are already members. The United Kingdom is already set to join the CPTPP, and thus all that is necessary is for the U.S. to rejoin the bloc.

What are the chances of forming such a partnership?

In Canada, the  Conservative Party voted near-unanimously to adopt the proposals of CANZUK International, a leading advocacy organization, as party policy. And CANZUK has been endorsed by the libertarian-conservative ACT New Zealand. In the U.K., it enjoys the support of many prominent Conservative politicians including Daniel Hannan, who decades ago was one of the founding members of the early euroskeptic movement. Further,  New Zealand’s government recently agreed to a deal that mutually eased visa restrictions with the United Kingdom. Australia and the U.K. had previously agreed on such an agreement. These deals do not go all the way to free movement, but they represent important steps. 

The United States has generally been excluded from these discussions, partly because of the dearth of political support in the U.S. for this type of arrangement, but also out of fear that the U.S. would come to dominate a future CANZUK union.  However, there millions of CANZUK citizens living in the U.S,. and Canada alone is home to 1 million U.S. citizens. It should not be hard to include the U.S. into any arrangement. 

A free movement zone has tangible benefits for both member nations and their citizens. But on a more holistic level, a greater cultural exchange and migration between the CANZUK-US countries would serve to strengthen cooperation and unity between these countries, something that will prove even more important as global competitors continue to challenge the supremacy of the Western world.

John Gustavsson is a conservative writer from Sweden and has a doctorate in economics.