Australia has cut off Britain’s hopes to establish full free movement with the Oceanian country, as the Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham asserted this week that such an agreement would cause an exodus of highly trained Australian workers to the UK and an influx of unskilled British workers.
According to Minister Birmingham, as Australia is not in full negotiating mode with the UK on the trade deal, Australian govt is still waiting to see what the UK aspires for, saying he couldn’t “imagine full and unfettered free movement” would be on the table during negotiations.
“Noting that work rights and movement of people in the UK has been a big part of the European Union debate, I would be surprised if complete liberalization around migration and labor rights was on their agenda,” Minister Birmingham said while paying a visit in London.
Minister Birmingham’s remarks come after the United Kingdom international trade secretary Liz Truss had suggested last year in September during her visit to Australia, that the latter shall permit British passport holders to live and work visa-free there.
“We’ve been clear on the fact we want to adopt the Australian-based points system in terms of our new immigration system as we leave the European Union… our two countries have a special link and a historic relationship, and it’s certainly something that we will be looking at as part of our free-trade negotiations,” she had highlighted at the time.
Shortly after, the Australian Primer Scott Morrison had highlighted that Australia was not planning to extend the visa-free regime that it has with New Zealand, with other countries.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson also advocated for the creation of a special visa-free zone with Australia when he was mayor of London.
According to Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, negotiations for a free trade agreement between Australia and the UK would prioritize enhancing trading with a market that is already Australia’s eighth-largest trading partner.
“Work and visa settings may also form part of discussions but it is important to appreciate that there is a huge spectrum of grey between the black and white of no movement or unfettered movement,” he said.
Currently, approximately, 120,000 Australians live in the UK, while on the other side, in 2019 636,000 UK passport holders obtained an Australian visa for tourism, business or temporary stay.
The existing arrangements permit Australians to enter the UK without a visa and remain there for tourism purposes for a maximum of six months per year. However, those wishing to work in the UK have to get a work visa.
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