precious little in common

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Shock. Horror. Adam Gemili fails to make the 100m final. Max Whitlock beaten into second-place on the pommel. Adam Peaty misses out on gold in 50m pool disaster. What is the Commonwealth coming to?

In a present that keeps on giving, and to show his common-touch was developed at an early age, our present foreign secretary said some sixteen years ago “It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waiving piccaninnies!” And there was I thinking we’d never agree on anything. Notwithstanding this bombshell, I’m now thinking he and his other Brexiters are displaying a somewhat renewed laser-like focus on the future potential of our once maligned Commonwealth.

On the face of it, the numbers remain somewhat compelling. The incumbents, spread across a fifth of the world’s land surface, contain almost a third of its population and produce in the region of 15% of the world’s wealth. However, up-until the dawning of post-Brexit realism, the belief that the Commonwealth offered the UK some form of economic salvation would have been laughable. 2015’s Tory manifesto gave only a cursory mention to “strengthen our ties with our close allies Australia, Canada and New Zealand”, to the blindly obvious exclusion of India, South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Contrary to the backgrounder, the reality is clear in that Australia takes only 1.6% of our exports and the whole of the Commonwealth accounts for a paltry 9.5%.

Later this month, the Commonwealth Heads of Government, hosted in of all places, Windsor Castle, are debating “Towards a Common Future” but I fear all post-Brexit trade negotiations will lay bare our contemptible fantasy of empire by any other name. Mind, earlier today, James Willstrop, finally did bring home Sydney squash gold for the home country, so every cloud and all that…