Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP stands up for Commonwealth migration and backs reform or Brexit

Conservative MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan has confirmed that, unless the UK secures major EU reform, she will back Brexit. When questioned on her position she has cited the unfair deal Commonwealth citizens get when it comes to UK migration policy as well as trade relations.

She said:

"It is my personal view that Great Britain has always been a nation which welcomes those from around the world who want to come to live and work here.

“I will always be an MP who believes in a good migration policy which we determine, not one which forces us to exclude Commonwealth nation citizens because we cannot control EU citizen movements. I do not want to see the UK remain within an EU which continues to move towards a federated states of Europe.

“We have always been, and can remain, trade partners and strong political allies with other European nations, whilst maintaining our sovereignty.”

You can read more about the current parlous state of Commonwealth migration in the UK and the impact this is having on us economically, socially, and culturally in our report "How to Solve a Problem like a Visa." You will also find six practical and pragmatic solutions to improve the situation.

You can also read our award winning Brexit Prize submission here.

Sir Paul Beresford MP calls for Commonwealth debate focussing on immigration

Sir Paul Beresford MP has called on the government to allow parliamentary time for a debate on the Commonwealth, focusing on immigration.

He asked the Leader of the House Chris Grayling the following question:

Sir Paul: Will my right hon. Friend persuade the Government to have a debate on the UK’s relationship with the Commonwealth, particularly the old Commonwealth? I have just returned from visiting New Zealand. It is definitely there and I am very conscious that, in our drive to reduce immigration, the UK is losing out on highly educated English-speaking people, generally graduates, who have very much to offer this nation in health, education, agriculture, banking, research, the armed forces and—dare I say it?—even rugby. There are kith and kin issues with such nations. They have stood with us—and they continue to stand with us today—in major and less major wars. We need to recognise that.

The somewhat disappointing answer was:

Chris Grayling: Of course, we try to maintain a sensible balance in our immigration system. It is necessary, right and proper to have controls. At the same time, we have routes for experienced people to come to this country and work. Many from Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the Commonwealth have done so over many years. I am sure that Home Office Ministers will have heard my hon. Friend’s comments and that they will do their best to take as pragmatic an approach as they can, but he will understand that there have to be limitations—our electors expect it.

Unfortunately the government is still failing to recognise the damaging impact that our immigration rules are having on those from the Commonwealth seeking to live, work, and contribute in the UK.

We highlighted some of these issues and made 6 pragmatic proposals for improving the situation in our report "How to Solve a Problem Like a Visa." We encourage the government to implement these proposals as soon as possible.

CX joins with the Royal Commonwealth Society

We are delighted to announce that from 1st December Commonwealth Exchange (CX) formally joined with the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS).

Please be assured that CX will continue its work and it will be business as normal with our in-depth research and reports as well as our well-attended events programme. We took the decision that CX joining the wider RCS family would allow us to better strengthen our message and secure greater leverage being part of a 150-year-old institution that is backed by Royal Charter.

Practically, it will mean that CX’s Executive Director, Tim Hewish, will join the RCS as its new Director of Policy and Research. He will carry forward CX’s work under the RCS’ long-standing and respected banner on our main themes such as trade, immigration, education, and security. We will also continue to have an online presence through social media.

More importantly, we wanted to take this opportunity to offer you a huge thanks for supporting us since our inception in 2013. In this time we have met some amazing and truly inspiring people from all over the Commonwealth – you are part of our story. The friends we have made will remain for life. Our lives are richer for this and we hope that we were able to return the favour through our work.

We believe firmly that the Commonwealth’s strength is its people and to this end we want to take you with us on the next step of our journey. As a CX supporter you will now be updated by the RCS on future reports and events. We warmly hope that you will continue the kind support that you gave CX towards the RCS.

This is not the end but a new chapter in our dreams and aspirations for a Commonwealth that has greater trading relations, freer movement of citizens, a better Commonwealth understanding for its young people, a stronger security architecture; and to bring the Commonwealth away from politics and towards the people.


Lord Howell: "The Commonwealth has a crucial military dimension which one hears barely acknowledged"

Our Chairman, Lord Howell, spoke recently at a Royal United Services Institution (RUSI) conference on International Military Influence.

Crucially, he made significant references to the power potential of the Commonwealth through greater interaction in a strategic and defence setting. This builds on our report The Commonwealth’s Call to Duty which we launched with the support of former UK Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox MP. We also launched in Toronto with the then Defence Minister, Jason Kenney MP.

Lord Howell told the audience:

“In all the military rethinking going on I see very little of this [the Commonwealth] inspiring vista or this binding message . The rest of the world marvels at how little use we make of our Commonwealth potential. Not only is this one of our biggest soft power assets, there is also a crucial military dimension, which again one hears barely acknowledged. 

“The mounting horrors of terrorism remind us that a globally connected response is required. NATO membership is vital in our region but not nearly enough. Commonwealth military chiefs and security experts already work quietly but closely together…Britain and Commonwealth countries increasingly train together, exercise together, plan together.

“For deploying Britain’s undeniably immense, but still underused, soft power assets the Commonwealth, with its ready-made trust network, is the ideal forum andplatform, even though it has some backsliders.

“To see things through thislens demands a changed mindset amongstpolicy-makers and those in all branches of government, civil and military, who are charged with safeguardingBritain’s security, its global business, its brand and its reputation – namely the combat troops of our immense, but under-used, soft and smart power.”

In our report we have called for a Commonwealth Defence Forum to enable these countries a space to discuss the security issues that impact them. These can range from humanitarian and disaster relief, terrorism, radicalisation, cyber security, drug smuggling, military training, and many more besides.

The UK should build on its current military links to Commonwealth nations for a wider understanding of global affairs and solutions. For example, HMS Lancaster’s recent visit to the port of Lagos, Nigeria to help train its navy and the recent UK-South African Forum which had a section given over to security concerns.

We hope that Lord Howell’s remarks at RUSI are taken up by UK defence personnel who attended that conference as they are vital to the UK’s future. With a new Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in the coming weeks the Defence Minister’s remarks to RUSI in September have a Commonwealth implication:

“Firstly, Defence must become international by design: the way we make policy, plan and train must increasingly reflect the reality of how we operate. In a world with global problems we require multi-national solutions. The UK already has a proud history of international co-operation…So in the coming months you can expect to see specific undertakings as part of the SDSR, outlining our international-by-design approach.”

11th UK-South Africa Bilateral Ministers Forum

This week CX attended a Chatham House (CH) event on the 11th UK-South Africa Bilateral Ministers Forum.

A joint communiqué was issued by both Governments. It noted that the 2009 goal of doubling trade between the two nations by the end of 2015 would be missed. This was confirmed during the CH event where the audience was informed that trade had only increased by 30% over this period.

However, after the event we were able to speak with the British High Commissioner to South Africa about our introductory trade guides for British SMEs. We handed our SA guide to the High Commissioner.

The biggest emphasis during the event was on foreign direct investment (FDI). The UK is one of South Africa’s largest investment partners and looks to remain so for the foreseeable future. It was also noted that the UK has a specific Trade Envoy for South Africa in the form of Baroness Scotland compared to a joint envoy for Kenya and Tanzania. We would like to see more UK Trade Envoys in Commonwealth nations to help advance trade in this area. As we mentioned in our latest City AM article Commonwealth markets offer the UK a prize opportunity with South Africa being one such destination.

In terms of how the UK could re-engage with South Africa and the African continent more generally it was conveyed that the UK had been missing and that other nations will overtake her without greater involvement in Africa. The view was that the UK knows South Africa better than new nations trying to work in the region and that where the UK needs to be now are the places it has already been in the past.

Returning to the communiqué itself there was an interesting mention on bilateral defence:

“South Africa expressed its appreciation for the significant contribution to military education, training and development including funding senior officers at the Royal College of Defence Studies, the Advanced Command and Staff Course.

“Ministers welcomed the extension of the British Peace Support Team South Africa tenure, enabling the continued transfer of skills and expertise to the South African National Defence Force and the opportunity to develop further the UK’s support to South Africa.”

This links to our Commonwealth’s Call to Duty report which recommended greater officer exchanges and the creation of a Commonwealth Military Scholarship. We hope that such dialogue helps our suggested Commonwealth Security Forum with both nations taking a lead.