Can this confederation of 52 nations offer some kind of substitute for the EU?
A Foreign Office minister last year dismissed as a ‘myth’ the notion that the UK’s membership of the EU somehow limits our engagement with the Commonwealth. But that was before June’s referendum vote – and the issue remains live.
In the intervening months, there has been no shortage of Brexiteers loudly proclaiming that disengagement from one bloc could – and should – push the UK closer to the other.
However you voted, it is a seductive thought. Can this confederation of 52 nations offer some kind of substitute for the EU, so many years after we shut the door on its other members in 1972?
Interviewed by the Gazette, Commonwealth secretary-general Patricia Scotland QC does not go that far. But she does highlight the need to take advantage of our legal, linguistic and cultural links to boost the so-called Commonwealth trade advantage.
There may now be extra freedom for the UK to enter into individual trade deals with all 52 states, she suggests, stressing that ‘common law is the cornerstone of our democracies’.
Indeed, but that would surely be a case of ‘needs must’. Most Commonwealth leaders were ardent Remainers and the Commonwealth secretariat has voiced concerns about the impact of sterling devaluation on exports and tourism.
In any event, the annual Commonwealth lawyers conference in March should be spikier than usual.