Australia Visa Talks
Officials in the Australian capital Canberra have sent a stark warning to British Prime minister Theresa May on the subject of immigration. Australian officials have stated that any future trade deal will be affected by the UK's position on immigration after Brexit. It warned that tightened visa restrictions would be damaging for the trading relationship between the countries. It claims that Australians have helped to build the UK economy and would be at risk if the government tightens its current visa regulations.
Australia is one of a number of Commonwealth territories that will be high on Britain's trading partner wish list after Brexit. This is the latest in a series of hurdles that the Prime Minister will need to jump. Mrs May has promised a "Global Britain" but this seems counter-intuitive when she is also looking to significantly reduce immigration figures. Her message seems at odds with official policy and is likely to become a hurdle in trade talks.
The stark warning is likely to provoke similar calls from another potential partner, India. The UK has been a destination for significant numbers of Indian nationals in the past, usually in order to study. The Indian government would be unlikely to welcome tightened visa restrictions on its citizens, especially to such a hot-spot.
Business groups such as the CBI have been keen in promoting a preferential scheme for migrants from the EU. This will certainly help with trade talks that are currently ongoing with Brussels but may damage the long-term relationship with other such close partners as Australia and India.
Canberra is pushing for a relaxation of visa restrictions on its citizens as the countries feel their way around future trade talks. But Home Secretary Amber Rudd has hinted that Australia should not be seeking special arrangements. These early headaches are only likely to increase as Australia has a close relationship with the UK. Other nations will not be as easy to deal with. If the government fails in its task with Australia it throws the UK's future trade deals into disarray. This talk is all very premature though, as the UK cannot start to talk trade deals with other nations until it formally leaves the European Union. They would need special permission to do so and that seems unlikely to be agreed.
Foreign secretary Boris Johnson will visit Australia at the end of July. His visit is timed to try and start to lay the groundwork for a future relationship between the two countries. He will be there as part of a wider tour of future trading partners with a view to show off the UK's selling points. He will also have to fend off the issue of pensions. At present, there are around 250,000 British pensioners in the country. Due to pension rules on ex-pats and the lack of inflation linked rises, there has been a shortfall compared to what they would receive in the UK. The Australian government is likely to push the British government to try and make up that shortfall.