Worcester’s MP, Robin Walker, has welcomed the City Council once again supporting the Commonwealth and flying the Commonwealth Flag above Worcester’s historic Guildhall. The MP who is an active member of the all party group for the Commonwealth and a patron of think tank, Commonwealth Exchange, has hailed the valuable role of the Commonwealth as a global network for the UK.

Robin has long supported more trade and engagement with Commonwealth countries but has noted that, whilst many in the Brexit campaign see it as an alternative to Europe for Britain, most Commonwealth allies want the UK to stay in the EU. Robin believes that Britain can do more to help the Commonwealth by staying in a reformed EU and pushing for further free trade with Commonwealth countries than by coming out.

Robin’s Father, Peter Walker, who was MP or Worcester from 1961 to 1992 spoke about the Commonwealth and the importance of Commonwealth trade in his maiden speech as the city’s MP and Robin has spoken about it regularly too. However in meeting with representatives of Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Zambia, India and South Africa, Robin has been struck by how they see Britain’s role as a member of the EU, not as a negative but as a positive for them. He has written about this as part of his wider essay on the EU referendum which can be found here:

https://www.walker4worcester.com/how-and-why-i-will-vote-the-way-i-will-in-the-eu-referendum/

Robin believes that in an increasingly global and networked world the Commonwealth is a key advantage of the UK but also recognises that it is not well designed to be configured as a replacement for the EU. Commonwealth countries work together as a family and share certain values in terms of democracy and human rights but would not be prepared to coordinate to the extent that Europe has in the last thirty years. The legacy of empire means that many Commonwealth countries would resent Britain having any degree of control over their laws or regulations. Rather, the Commonwealth can provide a valuable network for raising matters of vital interest to Britain in the world and for doing so in the framework of an organisation that shares history and values. Britain can continue to benefit from its global reach and help Commonwealth countries most by getting them access to Europe’s markets.

Commenting on Commonwealth day 2016, Robin said:

“Our Commonwealth family is a vital network for Britain in the world today. Historically these are countries that have stood with us through two world wars and share a common bond of British values and belief in the British way of doing things, but the Commonwealth is about so much more than history. It is a vibrant and diverse network with a global reach and a growing share of world trade. As the developing world catches up with the developed, I have no doubt that it has a greater role to play in Britain’s future as a trading nation.”

“We should ask ourselves however how best can we help our Commonwealth friend and allies? Some argue and I have been tempted to argue in the past, that we could do so by leaving the EU and setting up stronger trade relationships across the Commonwealth. This was certainly the view my late father held in the 1960s when he toured the Commonwealth lecturing on the risks of Britain joining a European Common Market. However ask the business leaders of India or Australia, the political leaders of key allies such as New Zealand and Canada and the answer is that they would prefer us to help them gain access to the European market. In the 1970s my father changed his view on Europe and became a supporter of Britain playing a stronger role but he never lost his love for the Commonwealth. I now feel the same.”

“We should recognise that the Commonwealth network is a powerful one, but not one that Britain controls. We should recognise more of the opportunities of the Commonwealth and the benefits to all if we can increase free trade with its many members but we should also recognise that our best chance of doing so is as a member of a reformed European Union. This is one of the many reasons why I will campaigning for Britain to remain a member of the EU when the referendum comes.”

 

Notes to editors:

For more information on Commonwealth Day 2016 see: http://thecommonwealth.org/commonwealthday

The UK Prime Minister gave a speech last week in which he set out economic arguments to remain in the EU:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-at-vauxhall-on-the-eu-referendum-10-march-2016

New Zealand’s PM John Key has set out why he hopes Britain will remain a member of the EU to support Commonwealth trade and his comments can be found here:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/77349461/john-key-on-brexit-uk-remaining-in-european-union-is-in-nzs-best-interests

Tata Steel, one of the leading Commonwealth investors in the UK have highlighted that they see the EU as being good for business:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34064984

Following the PM’s statement on EU negotiation Robin asked David Cameron about trade beyond the EU and the importance of Britain’s allies around the world including the Commonwealth, the exchange, in which the PM confirmed key Commonwealth Allies want Britain to stay in the EU, can be found here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160203/debtext/160203-0002.htm#160203-0002.htm_spnew44

Robin has spoken out for greater Commonwealth Trade on a number of occasions and the think tank Commonwealth Exchange has followed his activity here:

http://www.commonwealth-exchange.org/blog/advisory-board-member-robin-walker-mp-quizzes-government-on-commonwealth-trade

He has pressed the Prime Minister to ensure that Commonwealth Countries remain high on the list of priorities for EU free trade deals:

https://www.facebook.com/CommonwealthExchangeCX/posts/685562978130339

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131028/debtext/131028-0001.htm#131028-0001.htm_spnew149

Robin spoke in the Commonwealth day debate in 2013 and quoted his father’s maiden speech on the issue of the Commonwealth and this can be found here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130314/halltext/130314h0001.htm#130314h0001.htm_spnew38

he spoke about the importance of Commonwealth trade in an intervention on the Prime Minister here in 2012, here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121217/debtext/121217-0001.htm#1212174000729

He has also regularly raised the importance of the Commonwealth in taking forward improved standards of transparency in tax and reporting:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121212/halltext/121212h0001.htm#12121231000098

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130314/halltext/130314h0002.htm#130314h0002.htm_spnew0

and he spoke about the value of Commowealth Trade during the Commonwealth Day debate in 2012 which can be found here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121212/halltext/121212h0001.htm#12121232000068

concluding: “we have an exciting opportunity to position Britain better in the 21st century and to work with some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and rising powers. We should not turn our back on Europe, but we should recognise that we are stronger if we have multilateral relationships in many different directions, and if we complement our trade with our European partners with trade throughout a world that is rapidly changing and in which the centres of economic power are shifting.”