LONDON – Australia and other Commonwealth countries are demanding that their citizens should be granted the same rights as Europeans to live and work in the UK after Brexit, ahead of post-Brexit trade talks.
Julie Bishop, the Australian foreign minister told the Times newspaper that her colleagues in government would be disappointed if the UK put more restrictive immigration conditions on Australian citizens than on those expected to be placed on arrivals from the European Union.
Fellow Commonwealth members Canada and New Zealand reportedly share Bishop’s concerns and would broach the issue at free trade talks following the UK’s exit from the EU.
EU citizens will be able to enter the UK freely after Brexit, without having to obtain visas, while companies would be responsible for applying for work permits, it was reported on Thursday.
They would not be able to live and stay in the UK indefinitely and would have to apply in order to get permission for studying or settling.
Currently, Australians coming to Britain for work have to obtain a tier-two visa which allows them to stay for up to five years.
They are only eligible for one if they have already been offered a skilled job and can prove that they are sponsored by their employer, while they must also have a minimum of £945 in savings and usually have to earn over £25,000 a year.
Commonwealth members, especially Australia, New Zealand and Canada have warned the British government and Prime Minister Theresa May that the proposed plans could discriminate against their citizens.
This could come to a head at trade talks, as the UK seeks to secure deals with countries outside of the EU.
Imposing a restrictive migration system on the EU would affect British citizens who work in Europe, and also likely harm the economy by depriving the workforce of valuable employees.
May has said that Brexit will see an “end to free movement as we have seen as members of the European Union.”
The prime minister said: “We will have immigration rules and those will be for people coming from inside the European Union as today we have rules for people coming from outside the European Union.
“What’s important is that we’re developing those with a recognition of the importance of ensuring we can still welcome people from European Union countries to work and to visit the United Kingdom in future and ensuring we do that in the best and fairest way possible.”