Could Australia Have A Visa-Less 'Freedom Of Movement' With The UK?
The UK's International Trade Secretary has indicated Britain's desire for a 'freedom of movement' deal between the UK and Australia, as post-Brexit talks begin between the two nations.
Speaking alongside Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham at a press conference in Canberra on Wednesday, Liz Truss said Australia is one of the first countries it is consulting with as it begins its post-Brexit negotiations.
"It's one of our absolute priorities," Truss told reporters.
"We are old friends. Of course, as nations, we share a proud Democratic history. We're both free-trading nations; we both believe in free enterprise."
The UK is yet to leave the European Union, but UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who currently faces a nervous wait to see if the Supreme Court rules his suspension of parliament as unlawful, has repeatedly insisted Brexit will go ahead on October 31, with or without a deal.
Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison have both indicated their hope for swift trade agreements to be made between the two nations if and when Britain formally leaves the EU.
The UK is one of Australia's top 10 trading partners and the eighth largest in terms of two-way trade.
On Wednesday, Truss called for a "comprehensive" trade deal between the two nations and suggested the UK was interested in putting visa-less travel between Australia and Britain back on the negotiating table.
"We want a fully comprehensive trade deal that reflects our deep, ongoing relationship; the friendship between our two countries; the fact that Australians want to come and live and work in Britain, and Brits want to come and live and work in Australia."
Truss also said the UK government had already made planned changes to its immigration policy, including plans to adopt the Australian-based points system.
"We've recently made an announcement that we're extending the work period after foreign students come to the UK for two years," she added.
But of course, 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 agreement.
Morrison reportedly waved off any suggestions of a freedom of movement deal between the two nations last month after a meeting with his UK counterpart.
"The New Zealand arrangement is quite unique and it's not one we would probably ever contemplate extending," Newscorp quoted Morrison as saying at the time.
CANZUK an international lobby group which has been calling for closer ties between Australia, the UK, New Zealand and Canada believes freedom of movement policies should be an essential element to deals between all four nations.
A Change.org petition launched by CANZUK several years ago advocating for an introduction of freedom of movement legislation has more than 276,000 signatures.
At Wednesday's press conference, Birmingham did not comment on any 'freedom of movement' negotiations with the UK and instead focused on farmers, saying that Australia hoped to ensure more access in terms of agricultural products under a deal with the UK.
He added that it was "no secret" that agricultural access is limited under the current EU market.
Birmingham insisted any formal negotiations won't begin until the UK formally leaves the European Union.
"We’re confident... that we will be able with the shared ambition to make this comprehensive agreement to ensure that it opens up markets as much as possible is one that we can land quickly and do so to the benefit of both our economies," he said.
Feature Image: Getty