I have a confession to make. When I shop, I often do so at Waitrose. I do not know why that is in some sectors of society such an issue, but I acknowledge this may make me seem to be “posh”. This is not the case, and I bring it up to mention that if one is a member of Waitrose, one gets a free paper – provided one brings along proof. This I forgot, and made me greatly frustrated. (I further confess to being too cheap to buy the paper in question – The Times)
The reason for this was not that I greatly missed the ‘paper’, but rather that the Times had a very interesting article by Julie Bishop, the Australian Foreign Secretary. She called for equality in immigration between EU & Commonwealth citizens. Being an Australian politician, she is no doubt unfazed by the storm that has greeted such proposals, as it doubtless seems rather low-key compared to the ‘rough and tumble’ of the Australian Parliament.
She has caused trouble for the government, in that it has opened the old wounds of the referendum again. The two sides surfaced, retaking their battle lines. On one side, the Brexiteers call for an end of Eurocentrism. To them it seems completely normal to treat Commonwealth citizens with parity. For these, leaving the EU is an opportunity to become the ‘World Island’ again – the return of Global Britain. On the other, are the Eurocentrics, who believe that Britain’s place is firmly in Europe and preferably in the European Union. These want to remain as close to the EU as possible, and would therefore prefer to remain in the Single Market, Customs area and continue to grant EU citizens preferential treatment for immigration issues. To them, it seems that any connection with the Commonwealth has undertones of Empire and ought to be automatically avoided.
But Mrs Bishop went further than merely calling for Commonwealth Equality. She stated it was a major stumbling block for a trade agreement with it, New Zealand and Canada. This was heralded by some as ‘blackmail’, and proof that Brexit will turn into a “Wrexit”, yet to jump to such a conclusion is rather remarkable. For when the Commission makes similar declarations, those who are crying “blackmail” now, are most often the same demanding we concede to all their demands.
What Australia is calling for is fairness. They are not asking for preferential treatment, and indeed they do not wish it limited to themselves. They are decrying “discrimination” and it is greatly encouraging to see that statesmen are beginning to call a spade a spade: The Australian tendency towards straight-speaking appearing again, it seems.
It will not come as a surprise to read that the CRCC is supportive of Julie Bishop’s proposals; we also share her concerns of inequality. For many of us, the disparity between the treatment offered to Commonwealth and European citizens was a factor in voting to leave the European Union. Here at the CRCC we call for Free Movement with the CANZUK Nations. It is interesting that those three nations are the ones which have brought forwards this complaint, so basic parity with the EU must be viewed the minimum.
The question naturally becomes, what does parity entail? In the myriad of proposals and counter-proposals related to Brexit, it is easy to be confused about which proposals are now getting discussed in detail. What makes it worse, the proposals which Bishop is referring to do not seem to have been published by the British government yet.
What they do entail would appear to be visa free Freedom of Travel, with visas required for work. These visas would be applied for by the employing firm after arrival and would appear to represent little more than government ‘rubber stamping’ and would mean that, de facto, we would retain Freedom of Movement with the EU.
Setting to one side the issue of whether such proposals can accurately be described as a “Brexit”, this would appear to be a great leap forward for Commonwealth Equality in the UK’s immigration policy. Visa free tourism & travel, followed with the right to work if given a job application would be a simple, workable and effective policy for immigration & visas for HM’s Subjects in the other fifteen Commonwealth Realms.
I would opine it would be better to limit such a proposal to the realms, due to probable public concern if such a policy was announced unilaterally without reciprocation by the other fifteen realms. Furthermore, the Realms typically have a greater standardisation of cultural norms, standard of living, and population. Finally, the risk of brain drain would be drastically reduced, which is a concern for developing nations such as India.
This is not to suggest the Commonwealth Republics and Monarchies should be not also given parity, but that due to the great diversity, a “one-size-fits-all” policy would face major difficulties.
What is possibly most noteworthy is the way in which the request is posed: It is not a demand. It is not economic blackmail. It is the legitimate voicing of a concern and a request for equality. Such is the diplomacy of true allies and friends. The Commission could learn something. It is again becoming increasingly clear to see who Britains’ real friends are.
Advance Australia Fair(ly)!