Between the 19th and 28th April 1770, 238 years ago, Lieutenant James Cook was sailing off the Australian coast near Botany Bay. As Master of the barque Endeavour, he was sent by the Admiralty to chart the southern seas and discover what land lay there. He made his first landfall at what he named Botany Bay on 29th April. He had already completed the circumnavigation of both islands of New Zealand, demonstrating that they were two distinct islands and not part of a southern continent.
After his first voyage Cook was promoted to Commander, and entrusted with a larger ship and support vessels to undertake two more expeditions with better equipment. He became Captain between the second and third, and met his untimely death on the beach of a Pacific island in 1776 in circumstances which still give rise to argument over who was to blame for the breakdown in relations between hosts and visitors.
The significance of Cookâ€™s voyages was great. It gave Britain the initiative in settling and developing the trade of both Australia and New Zealand. It demonstrated the substantial advances Britain had made in charting and navigating, with the advent of the marine chronometer for longitude measurement, and it led to the huge geographical reach of the English speaking world. It confirmed that the UK has a global presence, not a European one. The presence was based on seapower, and sustained by doughty settlers in the far flung continents of the world.
When the UK joined the Common Market in 1973, one of the most difficult features of the arrangements was the future of agricultural trade between the UK and Australia and New Zealand. The bad rules and protectionist instincts of the CAP damaged both trade and relations between ourselves and kith and kin in the new world of Australasia. As it turned out, they have prospered mightily despite it, whilst the UK has backed trade with a slow growing part of the world, Europe, to some extent at the expense of the far faster growth in Asia.
Today as we remember Cookâ€™s skill and the bravery of his crews, we should wish to ensure that in future we remember the importance of the Asian and Australasian links. They are an integral part of the English speaking world, and they are the future. We need to develop our common cause and common interests through the Commonwealth and World Trade Organisation, through the affinity of the English speaking peoples and the free flow of talent and ideas between our countries.
Euroenthusiasts in the UK have sought to highjack Sir Winston Churchill as an advocate of their cause of linking the UK so tightly to the EU that we cannot follow our natural links with the English speaking world in the same way. We should remember that whilst Churchill did indeed want a strong EU, he did not envisage the UK being part of a European political union.
Churchill wrote a History of the English Speaking Peoples, not a History of the European Peoples. He concluded that four volume work by saying:
â€œHere is set out the long story of the English speaking peoplesâ€¦.Another phase looms before us, in which the alliance will once more be tested and in which its formidable virtues may be to preserve Peace and Freedom. The future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope. Nor should we seek now to define precisely the exact terms of ultimate unionâ€. Churchill saw the English speaking peoples coming closer together, first through a defence union and subsequently something more. This is the opposite of asserting that the UK should become a wholly owned subsidiary of the EU. In a world where US supremacy will in due course be challenged by China we need to think more about strengthening those ties and relationships.
The dynamism of Asia, and the success of the freedom loving model adopted by the USA, Australia and New Zealand, should make us welcome the spirit of Cook. Britainâ€™s future still lies with the English speaking world. At its centre today rests mighty America. Tomorrow at its heart will be successful India. India, once the jewel in the British crown, will become the English speaking locomotive of Asia and in due course the economic leader of the English speaking peoples. British trade in services and her pattern of inward and outward investment is based on the English speaking world, for that is where we find most in common.Trade in goods, where the EU is the biggest area, is a less enduring relationship than mutual investment.