Is the United States in the Commonwealth?

Flags of the Commonwealth members. Editorial credit: Dominic Dudley /
Flags of the Commonwealth members. Editorial credit: Dominic Dudley /

Also known simply as the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth of Nations refers to an association that consists of 53 states from all over the world. Almost all of the states were once colonies of Britain or had some relation to British colonies. As the Queen of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth although that role does not give her any special powers. Originally, the countries that made up the Commonwealth included the United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Newfoundland, and the Irish Free State. As things stand, the United States is not a member of the Commonwealth although it eligible to join and has expressed interest in the past. 

Commonwealth Membership

Within the Commonwealth, all the countries are regarded as equals and share common goals as per the 1971 Singapore Declaration and other agreements. Some of the common goals for these nations include good governance, promoting human rights, advocating for global peace, promoting democracy, and many other things. These goals are made possible through a number of projects such as the Commonwealth Games that take place once every four years.

History of US-British Relations

The US satisfies one of the first requirements of joining the Commonwealth, that is, it was a colony of Britain. Britain colonized the United States from the 16th century all the way to 1776 when it declared its independence. Upon its independence, the US became the first nation to get its independence from a colonial power originating from Europe.

One of the reasons why the US has not already joined the Commonwealth may have to do with how the US gained its independence from the British during colonial times. The US had an extremely brutal war with the UK. After gaining independence, the US also went ahead and fought the British again a few decades later during the War of 1812. All these were things that possibly created bad blood between the two nations.

Future of US Commonwealth Membership

In addition, the US and the UK probably had little to gain from the US joining the Commonwealth. For this reason, neither country has ever really had the need for the US to join. However, following the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union (a move that is known as Brexit), the two countries began having talks for the US join. In fact, the Royal Commonwealth Society came up with the idea of opening a branch in the US with the plan for making the US an associate member.

The need for the US to join comes from the fact that Brexit will require the UK to renegotiate several things such as trade and foreign policy. In addition, there is a good relationship between the President of the United States and the British Royal Family. All these reasons have reaffirmed the need for the two countries to be closer allies through the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth would also make it more suitable for companies to operate in either country since the regulations of the body are less strict compared to those of individual governments.


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