This week saw the 53 Commonwealth nations arrive in the UK for the biennial Heads of Government summit, where leaders covered a host of topics including cybercrime, ocean conservation, human rights and perhaps most importantly, trade. With the prospect of Brexit already affecting trade flows between the UK and the EU, the Commonwealth now takes on a new relevance. To some in Government, it now provides an opportunity to re-invigorate old colonial friendships neglected over the years of EU membership, using the common ties of the member countries to create a new trading bloc.
In the past, the Commonwealth has been criticised for being nothing more than a symbolic talking shop. After all, it has no economic, military or political power to espouse its high ideals and doesn’t provide any function that is not already carried out by another institution. It goes without saying that in order to capitalise on the opportunities the Commonwealth presents post-Brexit, we need to see real change in its structure.
Perhaps then, the decision made this afternoon by Commonwealth leaders for Prince Charles to succeed the Queen as head of the Commonwealth was not conducive in encouraging innovation and development in an institution which is often considered a relic of the colonial era by its critics. In reality, the Commonwealth needs an inspiring, politically capable leader at the healm who can offer revival and deliver solid outputs. Prince Charles has a real task ahead of him ensuring that the institution doesn’t end up sleep-walking towards irrelevance. Instead, he must work collaboratively with the Commonwealth leaders to promote real change. By the next Heads of Government meeting in two years time, Britain will in theory be well and truly out of the EU. Who knows how much the Commonwealth will have changed by then, if at all….