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[Our Web Editor has been looking through the Round Table Journal archives for articles which reflect Britain’s relationship with Europe while keeping its Commonwealth ties active. Below are abstracts and introductions from a range of articles which have appeared in The Round Table Journal; full versions are available at the Round Table Journal.
This page will be updated regularly.]

2015 Special edition of the Round Table Journal

The Commonwealth and the European Union: Norms, Partnerships, Circulations

After Edinburgh in 1997 and Malta in 2005, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on 27–29 November 2015 will again take place in a European Union (EU) member state. At the time of the 1993 CHOGM in Limassol, Cyprus was not an EU member.

As the debate on a possible United Kingdom exit from the EU unfolds, the relevance of Commonwealth–EU dialogue is likely to gain new importance for all concerned, including the participants in the four key forums now organised alongside the governmental proceedings—People’s, Youth, Women’s and Business. Back in July 2013, the Royal Commonwealth Society’s Conference on ‘Europe and the Commonwealth: How can Britain make the most of both worlds?’ emphasised two key aspects of EU–Commonwealth relations. First, the United Kingdom, Malta and Cyprus share membership of both organisations but this connection does not translate—at least not obviously and/or not yet—into any sort of meaningful ‘“link-up” in the EU’ .

Second, the EU and the Commonwealth are fundamentally different organisations, and ill-informed comparisons can be detrimental to sound political debates on the future both of joint members and of the organisations themselves. In the case of the United Kingdom, as Geoff Martin argued, the question of a stark choice between the EU and the Commonwealth largely comes from misconceptions of these organisations and vague notions of their history, structures, remit and impact, leading to a variety of discourses based on exclusivity and competition

Contributors to this issue all demonstrate that the EU and the Commonwealth are, indeed, two very different kinds of international organisation.
The special edition included:

Amelia Hadfield – Commune Consensu: A Soft Power Comparison of the Commonwealth and the European Union

Timothy M Shaw – The Commonwealth of Nations and the EU after the ‘Global’ Crisis: Rethinking Post-2015 ‘Global’ Development?

Peter Clegg – The Commonwealth Caribbean and Europe: The end of the affair?

Steve Cutts – The Commonwealth and Europe


More articles from the archives

Alex May (2013) – The Commonwealth and Britain’s Turn to Europe, 1945–73

Abstract: British policy-makers in the decades after the Second World War sought to frame British foreign policy in terms of three ‘circles’, the Commonwealth, the US and western Europe . Moves towards European integration threatened to shut Britain out of one circle and severely diminish its influence in the other two. The pull of the Commonwealth was fading, but it remained the single most important issue in Britain’s first negotiations to join the European Communities, in 1961–63. By the time of the second application in 1966–67 Commonwealth countries had made alternative dispositions and the Commonwealth was itself becoming increasingly fractured; hence, the Commonwealth was less of an issue then or in the subsequent successful negotiations in 1970–71. Britain’s applications nevertheless represent a watershed in British–Commonwealth as well as British–European relations.

Peter Hain (2010) – Britain, Europe and the Commonwealth

Intro: Being at the centre of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the United Nations, the G8 group of major economic powers, and the European Union advances Britain’s interests. This does not take away sovereignty but strengthens it. Just as Europe contributed to the end of the Milosevic regime in the former Yugoslavia, Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth have worked to restore democracy in Fiji and Sierra Leone, and engage constructively in Zimbabwe. The Government’s aim is a strong Britain, a strong Europe, a strong United Nations and a strong Commonwealth.

Peter Marshall (2008) – The united kingdom, the commonwealth and the Europe Union

Intro: The Edinburgh Declaration, which closed the 1997 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, emphasized the need to identify and make use of trade and investment opportunities in an increasingly globalized world. Britain, at the centre of the development of the European Union despite its hesitancy over Economic and Monetary Union, also has a role as a foothold for overseas investment in Europe. The Commonwealth is part of Britain’s overseas involvement for strong economic and political reasons.

1998 Editorial – Europe and the Commonwealth

Intro: EUROPE AND THE COMMONWEALTH: these are two chameleon-like collectivities currently capable of demonstrating surprising twists and turns. Even 10 years ago, who predicted confidently that there would be independent Slovene and Slovak Republics and several other newly independent states, a reunified Germany, to mention but a few of the startling changes that have already occurred? Ten years ago, who foresaw that Cameroon and Mozambique would be members of a now 54-country-member Commonwealth and that the Palestine Authority, Yemen and Rwanda would be knocking at the door requesting membership?

Both the European Union (EU) and the Commonwealth are now each faced with a number of applicants for membership. This has made each more aware and explicit about the need to spell out ‘conditionalities’ for membership. The Commonwealth did this in general terms in the lead-up to and at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in October 1997 (and a question of membership will be discussed further in an article by Stuart Mole, a senior staff member of the Commonwealth Secretariat, in the July 1998 issue of The Round Table.


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Selected free access Round Table articles are available at the Round Table website.