Food for thought:
Are the 153 members of the WTO "trade compatible"? Is it any accident that many groups have formed within WTO as a WTO document shows (see PDF here). Other than the 27 member EU (which did not form for WTO related purposes), the other most "active" (according to the WTO doc) groups include:
* ACP (79 members, 58 of which are WTO members),
* The African group (48 members, all WTO, ie a portion of the African Union of 53 members),
* APEC (20 members, including the US, China, Japan and Mexico. some are members of ASEAN),
* Mercosur (4 South American countries, also members of the wider UNASUR "EU type" of bloc outside the WTO),
* LDCs (43 members, 31 of which are WTO members and the rest WTO observers).
What unites countries or economies is such groups (note: quite different in content, compare eg the EU with APEC)? In the case of WTO is it common interests in the negotiations? Common "adversaries"in the negotiations? Any common "philosophies" (re economics or politics or culture or some other factor)?
What unites together The Commonwealth (formerly known as the British Commonwealth) with 54 members (not a WTO group)? According to its official site: "Beyond the ties of history, language and institutions, it is the association’s values which unite its members: democracy, freedom, peace, the rule of law and opportunity for all".
Which brings me to my main discussion point in this post:
Is the UK more compatible with the other 53 Commonwealth members than it is with the other 26 EU members? Are the factors listed by it (see above) implying a "free trade area" or "economic union" or "political union" potential that is fundamentally better, for the UK, than the one with the other 26 EU members? Is the UK willing or capable of a "committed relationship" with any group of countries/economies?
In January 2011, the UK PM got together for a summit with the PMs of the 8 so called Scandic or Nordic plus Baltic countries ie Iceland, Norway, Latvia, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Lithuania and Estonia (1) and declared that they had compatibility in areas such as their valuing of free trade (implying the other EU members do not?), see eg BBCnews' "Cameron calls for northern European alliance" . According to the BBC: "Describing himself as a "salesman for British business", Mr Cameron said he hoped the event would produce opportunities to boost trade between the UK and the Nordic and Baltic region which was worth about the same as that with France or China".
Let us also not forget the effort to keep a "special relationship" with the US.
It seems to me that what the UK's current government (and many in the past) want is to keep all their options open, in other words the geopolitical equivalent of "polyamory". In other words, there is a commitment problem or maybe syndrome.
This type of polyamory can work, provided there are enough others that wish to engage in such relationships. Eg do the other 26 in the EU wish to accommodate/tolerate the UK's unwillingness to commit to a single currency, Schengen, and what is more crucial, political "union" ("marriage")? How many of the other 26 see the EU as a mere "friends with benefits" group instead of a "marriage"?
Does the UK's unwillingness to commit contain a visible risk of winding up all alone without a partner and real friends?
Footnote: (1) Of the 1+8, 1+6 are EU members, 2 Eurozone members.