Overwhelming Support for ‘Visa-Free Bloc’ Between UK, NZ, Canada and Australia
A new survey has found an overwhelming support on granting citizens from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to live and work freely in each other’s countries.
The Royal Commonwealth Society’s survey showed that most people are in support of removing barriers to live and work in the four countries, with support among New Zealanders as high as 82%. Some 75% of Canadians, 70% of Australians and 58% of Britons are also in favour.
Support has skyrocketed among young adults aged between 18 and 35, with 90% of New Zealanders and 80% of Australians in favor.
Tim Hewish, the report’s author and director of policy and research at the Royal Commonwealth Society, said there was clearly “immense support” from Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders for the freedom to live and work in the UK.
“Collectively we possess a unique bond which needs protecting. We share a language, a legal system, and a Queen.”
Lord Howell of Guildford, the president of the Royal Commonwealth Society, said governments must work “to ensure as much free mobility as is workable”.
“This polling is invaluable as it shows the views and wishes of these fellow Commonwealth friends in strong support of closer ties. Governments must find ways to build them and to remove the obstacles that stand in their way.”
The poll is the latest in a series sparked by the call made by London mayor Boris Johnson on his visit to Australia in 2013 for a “free labour mobility zone” between the two countries.
But since then the number of Commonwealth nationals working in the UK has fallen significantly due to a crackdown on migration from outside the European Union, with a new tranche of immigration policies about to take effect.
From 6 April, all skilled workers from outside the EU who have been in the UK for less than 10 years will need to earn at least £35,000 a year in order to qualify for a Tier 2 visa and settle there permanently.
Australians and New Zealanders in the UK for six months or more will also be required to pay an annual surcharge of £200 (A$380 and NZ$426) to access some health services.
Australians and New Zealanders were previously exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge, but Britain’s immigration minister, James Brokenshire, said in a statement in February it was “only fair” that they contribute to the National Health Service.
Migration specialists have reported a spike in the number of Australians based in Britain now looking to return home, though the changes have been publicised since 2011.
The governments of both Australia and New Zealand have criticised the changes. New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key, said extending the NHS surcharge to New Zealanders in the UK was “pretty cheap and not really in keeping with the history of the two countries”.
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade report obtained by News Corp in Australia warned that the “discriminatory” changes would make the UK “a less welcoming destination” and potentially put formal relations between the two countries at risk.
The Royal Commonwealth Society survey bolstered a November 2015 survey of 1,687 Britons with polling of 1,000 people in both New Zealand and Canada and 1,247 Australians in late January 2016.
Questions asked of Australians and New Zealanders took into account the free labour mobility already afforded between those two countries by the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement.
An additional question found that more Britons favoured free mobility with Canada, Australia and New Zealand than with countries in the European Union.