Australia rejects visa-free immigration deal with UK

Sydney
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The Australian government has turned down the UK’s offer of a post-Brexit trade agreement that included visa-free work and travel between the two countries.

Trade minister Simon Birmingham said full free movement would not be accepted because it could cause an exodus of highly trained workers to the UK and an influx of unskilled British workers to Sydney and Melbourne. Last year, ministers in New Zealand voiced similar fears of a brain drain.

Last September, international trade secretary Liz Truss, on a visit to Australia, announced that a plan to allow British citizens to live and work in the country visa-free could be just months away.

She said: “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.”

But even then, Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison, said the visa-free arrangement with New Zealand was not something that would be extended to other countries.

Birmingham said yesterday: “Negotiations for an FTA [free trade agreement] between Australia and the UK will prioritise enhancing trade with a market that is already our 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.

“Once talks are launched with the UK we will work through all of these issues in the usual way,” he said.

Under existing arrangements, Australians can visit the UK for six months as a tourist without a visa.

A visa, however, is required to do paid or unpaid work for those born after 1983 and don’t have a parent who is a UK citizen (or was a UK citizen at the time of the traveller’s birth).

Chetal Patel, partner at City law firm Bates Wells, said the rejection of the UK proposal was a setback for the UK government: “Although bilateral trade discussions are ongoing, the news that the Australian government has rejected a visa-free arrangement serves as another stark reminder of the challenges the UK faces post-Brexit. It’s also a significant rebuke for the new administration considering the introduction of visa-free arrangements seemed to be almost a foregone conclusion just a few weeks ago.

“Surely work visas and other visas should be decided separately from the UK’s trade negotiations?

“This development ultimately begs several questions. What kind of approach will the government take in negotiations with other states given that the Home Office may now be completely restructured? Is the liberalisation of free movement as previously mooted by Boris Johnson and free marketeers going to be the guiding principle of immigration policy? Or does this episode suggest that preferential arrangements with certain other nation states will no longer be pursued?”

Patel said it would be interesting to see the impact of the Morrison government decision on the Australian-style immigration points based system to be implemented in the UK. “We’re expecting the Migration Advisory Committee’s report to be published at the end of this month, so we may know more about what’s in store very shortly,” she said.

About 120,000 people born in Australia are UK residents, with the largest concentration being in south-west London. About 2,000 Australians work in the NHS.

17 Responses to Australia rejects visa-free immigration deal with UK

  1. Avatar
    Cameron Smith 7 Jan 2020 at 12:06 pm #

    The stance of the Australian government is useless, they fear the influx of unskilled workers into Australia which is nonsense. The average unskilled UK worker cant afford to move to Australia even with a free movement of people deal, 1.2 million Brits already live in Australia all of them being Skilled Workers and that is a trend that is bound to keep happening. With in 20 years I can confidently say that with a free movement deal Between the Commonwealth and the UK that the British population in Australia will be around 2 million 99% of them will be skilled workers with degrees.

    The fear of the current Australian government is stupid and I honestly can see the current coalition being in power after the next election. A free movement deal will be beneficial for both countries. End of debate.

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      Jason 7 Jan 2020 at 1:50 pm #

      Any UK worker with skills that Australia needs can already get a visa to live and work in Australia – why would Australia open this system up any further when the only additional people that will then come through would be unskilled UK workers or UK workers with skills that aren’t required in Australia?

      There is no doubt that unskilled and unemployed UK citizens would come en masse to Australia – hundreds of thousands already do on working holiday visas, with tends of thousands of those overstaying their visas trying to find ways to stay in the country.

      The view within the UK that Australians will have some preference for UK residents over those of other regions such as continental Europe, the Americas and Asia is archaic and does not reflect modern Australia.

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        Jason be 17 Jan 2020 at 12:50 pm #

        If that’s the case,I will urge our UK government to make it impossible for any Australian to come to the UK from now on,even on holiday I would urge our UK government to put fee on they visit visa as and the visa to be no longer then 3 weeks and the visa fee to be round £500 ! And then we see how the Australians do ,let them be locked to they lovely country cos they think they are better then us British.
        I’m sure New Zealand and Canada are ready to sign the free movement with UK.

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          Louise 23 Jan 2020 at 8:46 am #

          New Zealand has already said no for the same reasons as Australia.

          Now, I agree with you and would like to see a visa-free arrangement between all these countries too. Frankly, as an Australian, the problem is Australia.

          The reason the government fears a ‘brain drain’ and an influx of low skilled migrants is because they know that the UK, Canada etc are attractive places for intelligent well educated workers, and Australia isn’t really. It’s more of a holiday destination. They know lots of Australian’s would like to go, and not enough of the people they want to come want to come.

          Australia should focus on making Australia a more attractive proposition for intelligent, well educated people, that way not so many will want to go elsewhere and more will want to come.

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      Robert Lee 8 Jan 2020 at 10:30 am #

      Re your second-last sentence: then surely a free movement deal is also beneficial for both the UK and the EU … or have I missed something? The UK govt has been going on for the last three and a half years about ending free movement to the UK and cutting immigration, yet they expect the Australian govt to seriously consider giving UK people free movement to Australia. No wonder the Aussie govt told them to get lost … couched in diplomatic language, of course.

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    Gareth Hoyle 7 Jan 2020 at 1:45 pm #

    I disagree. The reason many current British citizens living in Australia have degrees is because there is already a points based system in place which makes it easier for skilled workers to move there. A trend that is bound to continue? There is no evidence of this.

    Australia already has a brain drain problem. Skilled Australians leave for overseas to the northern hemisphere where there is greater collaboration between Europe and North America in science and technology. Making it easier for this to happen will be detrimental to Australia’s skilled workforce.

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    Paul Denney 7 Jan 2020 at 1:56 pm #

    I think Australia is missing a trick here, the UK has just elected its most right wing government in post war history. They are going to take us out of the EU with no deal, the economy is bumping along the bottom and consumer confidence is at an all time low. If there is going to be any brain drain it wont be from Australia to the UK. We have had 10 years of austerity the working class are broke its only the skilled middle class that can afford to move everything to the other side of the planet. To any Australians thinking of heading this way all I can say is yes you might literally be jumping out of the frying pan just now but I can think of better countries to land in.

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    Keoth jones 7 Jan 2020 at 6:12 pm #

    We dlidnt vote for brexit to start free movent with others we voted to tighten up immigration and we don’t want our skilled workers moving so good I am happy Australia gov said no to that.

  5. Avatar
    Mun 8 Jan 2020 at 1:35 am #

    Why even arguing here. No point or value of our opinion. Things will change according demand. People would keep moving around the world according their need and flexibility and ability. Every country is mixed with different race, citizens and religion, which is not possible to separate. Who are we to say “this is my country and no one can enter for work or live”. Look back and see our great grand parents also from somewhere else and hard work to make us Australian, British, Canadian American and so on . So let others to be settled wherever they find it suitable for their future great grand children. Let’s embrace others with love and care. Then you will see the world in peace…..

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    Mr Bob Dobalina 8 Jan 2020 at 9:27 am #

    Seems a bit of an own goal. Whether there is a brain drain because of the current system or potential brain drain because of the new system then end result is going to be the same…those with the know how and wherefore all will still leave for the UK simply because the rest of the world is so much easier to get to up norf!

    As for unskilled workers flooding in to Australia…it won’t happen due to Australia being outside of the easy jet effect! IE, it will be far to expensive for your average wogo pom to not just get to BUT also live in Australia.

  7. Avatar
    Denis Daly 8 Jan 2020 at 11:02 am #

    Does anybody see the hypocrisy here. The UK elected to withdraw from the EU over free movement…to take back control, and for the last year have been looking for free movement with New Zeland and Australia. This accords with abundant research by Swami (2017), Goodwin and Forde (2016), de Zavala (2019), that a large portion of leavers held racist attitudes.

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      Mark Finehair 14 Jan 2020 at 8:09 pm #

      Canzuk because of history etc., why you find that strange baffles me. The influx of non unionized people from ex communist states , who have no concept of civil liberties etc. Does surprise me or not or as I expect you have no knowledge of their impact and write me off as an ignorant racist. I can’t be bothered to even correct my spelling and grammar. You people bore me with your ignorance and I won’t swear but you can see the election results?

  8. Avatar
    David 9 Jan 2020 at 11:03 am #

    The world should open up. Particularly with countries that have such similar values and history. Its one planet and people should be free to live in it. People shouldn’t be prisoners to the country they’re born in. If they can afford and offer their skills and they can gain employment then they should be allowed. I would love for the UK, US, NZ, CAN, AUS to have a immigration policy that allows free movement depending on securing employment.

  9. Avatar
    Hedy Lamar 16 Jan 2020 at 1:08 am #

    As an Aussie, I can say that this was never going to work. We don’t need free movement – we have the highest population growth rate in the developed world and it is all via points-based high skilled migration. Why we’d throw that away for “free movement” beggars belief. There are a lot of delusional people in the Brexiteer and CANZUK crowds on this issue. What we have now works a damn treat. It’s no wonder Boris wants to emulate our system.

    As for high-skilled talent and fears of brain drains: by the points-based system, this demographic is already highly mobile, in either direction. Free movement doesn’t change that aspect at all. Why fix what ain’t broke? FTAs will usually include some visa tweaking for this group, especially in collaborative sectors like academia, R&D, etc. This ticks all the boxes and is far lower risk than some open slather free movement principle. Stick to free trade and harmonising standards and regulations.

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    Terry daly 19 Jan 2020 at 8:21 pm #

    The UK hasn’t yet tasted the fruit of Brexit and no one knows what the cost will be. B Johnoson like Mrs. May, is desperate to secure post Brexit trade because we all know Brexit was political and not a financial decision and it will be necessary to shore up the balance of payments. I am a Brit in Europe and I have followed in detail since the referendum the twists, turns and ups and downs (and the non truths) of the UK Conservative Party which appear to be driven mainly by self interest. Engaging in any important agreement with BJ (the conservative Party) at this time seems a risky business. Better wait for the Brexit dust to settle and let the UK decide which way it wants to move forward. At this time if Trump says jump, then BJ does.

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    james 20 Jan 2020 at 9:29 am #

    free movement between all comonwealth countries should be comon. where australia needs to be slightly careful is the uk weather is warming up rapidly as soon as it is warm in the uk. australians wanting to move to the uk will miss out as i do still think the uk is more advanced than australia. a warm uk is better than a hot australia. but until the uk is warm australia has the advantage.

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    Sylvain Michel Zephir 20 Jan 2020 at 2:22 pm #

    I think that the decision to reject the proposal of free movement agreement of British people sound obvious they this will indeed create an influx of British people here in Australia. I also believe that there was a panel of discussion before a firm decision is made and Australian government has also been thinking about the consequences it could impact on Australian’s labour market.

    Things might change in the future depending on the contribution UK will bring to Australian economy in the future.

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