Push for Oz, NZ, UK, Canada visa deal
Australia has been asked to join a push for a new visa-free migration bloc with a new poll finding overwhelming public support to be able to live and work freely in “like-minded” nations.
The push to have a “free mobility labour zone” between Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain was started by London Lord Mayor Boris Johnson and has now been backed by several UK politicians.
A poll in the four nations commissioned by the Royal Commonwealth Society in London and released this week found 70 per cent of Australians, 82 per cent of New Zealanders and 75 per cent of Canadians supported the move.
Britons also backed the initiative although to a lesser degree – at 58 per cent.
The UK is currently in a migration crisis with EU membership ensuring all Europeans have free access to live and work in the UK and receive substantial benefits, all of which is to come to a head in June with a referendum on whether the UK remains in the EU.
Young adults (18-35 years) predictably in Australia and New Zealand were the most supportive, 90 and 80 per cent respectively.
The move comes as the UK parliament will vote in April on plans to further restrict skilled migration from outside the EU – already down to just 20,700 a year from the rest of the world.
This has already impacted on Australian workers wishing to live and work in the UK.
“This polling is invaluable as it shows the view and wishes of these fellow Commonwealth friends in strong support for closer ties,” the Commonwealth Society’s president and former British Minister of State Lord Howell said.
The society’s director of policy and research Tim Hewish said MPs in each country were now needed to build political interest to having a migration bloc between the nations.
He said the countries shared common language, legal systems, economic and family ties and the same Head of State so it seemed a natural shift.
Both the Australian and New Zealand governments have publicly lambasted the UK’s visa restrictions and predicted the UK was “sleep walking” toward permanently damaged relations with its two allies over the visa issue.
“It will be a long slog, it is a big idea,” Mr Hewish said of looking to connect MPs in the four nations to pressure to form such a free mobility zone.
A spokesman for Boris Johnson said the Lord Mayor of London was keen for a migration deal to be trialed between just Australia and UK first then possibly extended to other countries, adding Commonwealth citizens should be allowed greater ability to contribute to London’s culture and community.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist