News came today of a frankly peculiar arrangement between the Conservative governments of Canada and Britain that will see them sharing consular addresses in certain countries.
This arrangement to co-locate consular services is all in the name of cost-cutting a beloved credo of conservative governments everywhere. What's not to like? You share a building with either your past colonial master or with a former dependency that is...well dependent again. It's like the teenage offspring that can't quite leave home.
The two Governments - Stephen Harper's Conservatives in Canada and David Cameron's ConservativeLibDems in Britain have warm words on the issue. Both countries 'share values'. That's ok then but wait a minute what are those values? Well there's the Queen and err...saving money.
Diplomacy is an important thing and keeping your independence in that diplomacy is surely the key thing. Kind of hard to keep some of your dealings confidential if another states consular staff see who's coming and going. Like many things in the respective governments recent actions there's a element of farce about this proposal.
In the past Britain refused the Hong Kong Chinese with British passports the right to reside in the UK while Canada welcomed them and benefited from their entrepreneurial drive.
It may be that with ideological driven right wing conservative governments in respective countries that this arrangement might work (if you overlook the absurdity of the premise) but what happens if and when the respective governments are of a differing hue? An indication has been given by the NDP opposition in Canada. Their foreign affairs spokesman Paul Dewar said 'I think it has a lot to do with the fact that this government is cutting severely on diplomacy'. Dewar also said ' We [Canada] shouldn't be a pawn in their [Britain's] diplomatic game.' This last comment a reference to the a view held on both sides of the Atlantic that the move is part of Britian's response to the EU's expansion of it's own diplomatic corps.
All in all it's an odd development and one that so far has given little detail. Much has been made on both sides of broadening diplomatic reach without without detail of where these new joint missions will be set up. Canada just closed its office in Iran so that's one country that won't be on the list and arguably a country in need of diplomacy.
What next? Where's the next saving to be made? Here's one. Harper is so taken with this new arrangement of master and servant that he does away with Canada's Maple Leaf Flag in favour of a return to the old red duster of Canada complete with its Union Jack. What about this Cameron loses the Scottish Independence Referendum and asks Harper for a new Union of 'shared values' - Better Together anyone? Only joking or you read it here first.