Redefine the Commonwealth now to safeguard its future

From: Chatham House
Published: Fri Oct 07 2022


Although seen as one of the Queen's greatest legacies, the Commonwealth must provide tangible benefits to its citizens in an era of geopolitical competition.

The Commonwealth's breadth allows a wide diversity of countries of different sizes, geographies, cultures, and values to be members - it is both rich and poor, north and south, and ethnically diverse. This makes it more interesting than many other multilateral institutions such as the G7, NATO, and the European Union (EU).

But it suffers from an unclear purpose. Since its inception, successive UK governments have grappled with its role - whether it is a preferential trading bloc or merely a source of most of Britain's post-war immigration.

This lack of purpose - and structure - has left the Commonwealth impotent in dealing with a host of bilateral difficulties between the UK, its overseas territories, and Commonwealth partners in recent years.

Brexit could induce Britain to re-prioritize the Commonwealth, but so far the UK has only signed two new trade deals with Commonwealth members - Australia and New Zealand - while development aid, one of the most tangible ways the UK worked with many Commonwealth countries, has been cut and the UK's defence focus has pivoted towards the Indo-Pacific and Europe's Eastern front.

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Company: Chatham House

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