Canada, Australia, and New Zealand Are the UK’s Natural Allies Outside Europe

Gautam Kambhampati makes the case that free trade is only good if it's coupled with free movement and discusses those countries outside of Europe that are the UK's natural allies.

Free trade is good for a market economy. However, it is free movement, that oft-neglected part of the neoliberal puzzle, which ensures that any economic fruits of free trade are properly distributed. This is clear when one considers the fact that free trade results in specialisation: jobs from one country will move to another, and jobs from the other country will move back. In order for the population to remain employed, they must be willing to move or reskill (and must be provided with the financial support required to do so). Given that not everyone can or wants to reskill, providing realistic options for relocating is important. Thus, the more international trade barriers are reduced, the more free movement becomes important.

It is important to recognise three things: first, ‘movement’ doesn’t necessarily mean physical movement. It is just the ability to easily take jobs in another country. Secondly, ‘realistic’ means that people must be actually willing to move: giving people the option to move to China isn’t really an option at all. Finally, any movement must be symmetric. In a system with asymmetric movement, the countries from which people are more likely to emigrate suffer from brain-drain and the countries into which people immigrate suffer from wage depression: the only people who benefit in this scenario are the wealthy elite.

Now that the sad process of Britain’s exit from the EU has been completed, we are in the process of entering into trade deals with other nations. It is imperative that the nations with which trade barriers are reduced the most are also those to which we are most willing to move. Further, given that it is important that we encourage symmetric reciprocal migration, these countries must share our values: respect for democracy, tolerance, and freedom.

Measuring cultural similarity quantitatively is extremely difficult, and impossible to do perfectly. However, various indices of freedom and democracy may give us a clue. In the 2020 Democracy Index [1], only eight non-EEA countries were listed as ‘full democracies’: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Uruguay, Mauritius, Costa Rica, and Chile. Of these, only Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Chile also have high scores in the Freedom in the World Index [2] and Human Freedom Index [3].

We can also turn to the Gender and Social Norms Index [4], which measures attitudes towards gender equality. This reveals that, of non-EEA countries, only Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA have more than 40% of their populations with ‘no [gender] bias’. The least biased nations overall are Andorra (73%), Sweden (70%), the Netherlands (60%), and Norway (59%), which shows just how far behind the UK (at 45%) is. The Legatum Institute’s personal freedom score [5], which takes into account social and racial tolerance, has Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay, and the UK as the only non-EEA nations with scores over 80.

If the British people, should they wish to emigrate, want to live in a country which is equally diverse, tolerant, free, and democratic, they are then limited to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and a small subset of the EEA. Conversely, if we are to encourage inward migration and free movement (which we must, if trade barriers are significantly lowered), these are the only countries whose citizens seem to share our values.

Cultural similarities are not the only factor to address when considering whether freer movement of people ought to be sought after. Unfettered neoliberal reduction of barriers can have disastrous effects on developing economies, which often do better in embracing some form of protectionism [6]. Opening borders between economically unequal countries inevitably leads to brain-drain in the less developed economy, as the well-educated youth leave to seek employment elsewhere. The wealth, inequality, and general economic development of a country is well-captured by the inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI). Only eight non-EEA countries are listed as having ‘very high development’ in the IHDI [7]: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and the USA. Of these, only Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK are listed in the Democracy Index as ‘full democracies’.

Analysis of all this data with EEA countries included gives us more insight into the rising Euroscepticism across the Continent (and in the UK, of course). Whilst Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, the Low Countries, and Scandinavia are full democracies with high tolerance, freedom, and IHDI scores, many of the other EEA countries are not so aligned. It is not surprising that migration in the EEA is often a one-way street. As noted above, such asymmetries totally undermine the neoliberal pledge that free trade is Good For All. In such a system, free trade is only good for the wealthy elite, whilst the poor in the poorest countries suffer the most.

Taking all of this information together, we are left with the conclusion that we should pursue the lowest barriers to trade, and therefore the lowest barriers to migration, with Canada, Australia, New Zealand (CANZ), and a small subset of the EEA. Given that it is impossible to only deal with a small subset of the EEA, we must pursue such a relationship with the CANZ nations. Whilst the USA is an economically well-developed country, it lags behind in many areas: democracy and racial tolerance to name but two. Free trade with the USA would be a disaster for British food standards and for the NHS. We should not pursue it.

On a final point, it should be noted that economic alignment through free trade and free movement of people necessarily leads to diplomatic alignment. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Japan, and Turkey are the only non-EEA countries with which the UK agrees more than it disagrees in the UN [8]. Of these, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are the only non-EEA nations with 70% agreement or more. The USA is fourth, with 64% agreement. Clearly, we are already on the same page as the CANZ nations on many issues. (The EEA countries with whom we agree are, once again, the western European nations.)

Free trade is good, and lower trade barriers are good, if free movement of people is encouraged. Free movement of people requires alignment of values: in the UK’s case, those of democracy, tolerance, and freedom. Thus, we are limited to a very small subset of the world with whom we can pursue the closest relationships: Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.


Gautam Kambhampati is a PhD student studying physics at Imperial College London and is the AI & Quantum Computing Policy Officer for the Young Fabians Tech, Defence and Cybersecurity Network. He is also the Director of Academical Machine Learning ( and Editor of Tamarind Literary Magazine (

You can find him on Instagram via @gautampk and his LinkedIn is







[6] Chang, Ha-Joon (2014). Economics: The User’s Guide, Pelican Books.




Rankings (non-EEA countries only)

Democracy Index 2020, >0.8

  1. New Zealand (9.26)
  2. Canada (9.22)
  3. Australia (9.09)
  4. UK (8.52)
  5. Uruguay (8.38)
  6. Mauritius (8.22)
  7. Costa Rica (8.13)
  8. Chile (8.08)


Freedom in the World 2020, >90

  1. Canada (98)
  2. Uruguay (98)
  3. Australia (97)
  4. New Zealand (97)
  5. Japan (96)
  6. Barbados (95)
  7. UK (94)
  8. Dominica (93)
  9. Kiribati (93)
  10. Marshall Islands (93)
  11. Taiwan (93)
  12. Tuvalu (93)
  13. Cape Verde (92)
  14. Micronesia (92)
  15. Palau (92)
  16. St Lucia (92)
  17. Bahamas (91)
  18. Costa Rica (91)
  19. St Vincent & the Grenadines (91)
  20. Chile (90)


Human Freedom Index 2020, >8

  1. New Zealand (8.87)
  2. Australia (8.68)
  3. Canada (8.64)
  4. Japan (8.49)
  5. UK (8.44)
  6. USA (8.44)
  7. Taiwan (8.42)
  8. S. Korea (8.27)
  9. Singapore (8.21)
  10. Chile (8.18)


Gender & Social Norms Index 2020, >40

  1. New Zealand (53.86)
  2. Australia (53.76)
  3. Canada (48.47)
  4. UK (45.40)
  5. USA (42.69)


Legatum Institute’s Personal Freedom Score, >80

  1. Canada (88.22)
  2. New Zealand (86.56)
  3. Australia (83.92)
  4. Uruguay (83.38)
  5. UK (82.97)


Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index 2020, >0.8

  1. Australia (0.867)
  2. New Zealand (0.859)
  3. UK (0.856)
  4. Canada (0.848)
  5. Japan (0.843)
  6. S. Korea (0.815)
  7. Singapore (0.813)
  8. USA (0.808)


UN Votes with the UK, Agreed Votes / Total Votes > 0.5

  1. Canada (0.72)
  2. New Zealand (0.71)
  3. Australia (0.70)
  4. USA (0.64)
  5. Japan (0.62)
  6. Turkey (0.58)


Do you like this post?

Showing 1 reaction