New report calls for special mobility zones between Commonwealth countries

by Ray Clancy on November 5, 2014

Citizens of the key Commonwealth countries should be granted special status to live and work in the UK without restriction, according to a new report.

Bilateral mobility zones should be established between the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada says the report from the Commonwealth Exchange.


Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, says bilateral mobility zones should be established between the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada

The proposal is based on an idea first put forward by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who was outraged last year when an Australian teacher was asked to leave the UK while European Union citizens enjoy unfettered access.

The report argues that the zones should be modelled on the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement (TTTA) between Australia and New Zealand.

‘The TTTA should be seen as a starting point for the UK to build a flexible, fair, reasonable and reciprocal regime. New Zealand’s two year wait for welfare provision and five year wait for eligibility for citizenship appear sensible ideas that the UK may wish to replicate,’ said Tim Hewish, the author of the report.

The report acknowledges that there might be some concerns in Australia and New Zealand about being swamped by Brits, but it points out that the mobility zones would be two way streets — the UK has a population of 63 million, compared with Australia’s 23 million and New Zealand’s 4.5 million.

‘It may be seen as hypocrisy for any Australian government to, on the one hand, allow freedom of work and movement of Britons yet, on the other, refuse entry to nationals from Asian countries,’ said Hewson.

‘However, one could argue correctly that there is a difference between asylum seekers and prospective economic migrants,’ he explained, adding that in the future the zones could be opened up to include other Commonwealth countries.

The report argues that the UK government’s inability to regulate European Union immigration has led to policies aimed at migrants from other countries which ‘have had an undeserved impact on the Commonwealth’.

It says that it would ‘be shameful and a deep error to disregard the shared language, legal system and customs that the Commonwealth family provides’.

The report recommends a Commonwealth concession for UK business visas and, in the longer term, a Commonwealth wide business visa system based on the ASEAN business travel card which would include fast track passport lanes at UK airports.

Johnson has written the foreword for the report and suggests the UK should recast its immigration system as it re-examines its relationship with the European Union. There is currently a lot of support for changes to the free movement of EU citizens.

‘The first place to start is with the Commonwealth. It seems that almost all parts of the Commonwealth are brimming with a new energy and optimism at precisely the time that the European Union is struggling,’ said Johnson.

‘As we reconsider Britain’s place in the world, I want us to reconsider how we engage with Commonwealth peoples. Therefore I welcome this report by the Commonwealth Exchange as the beginning of a long overdue discussion about how we engage with Commonwealth citizens, specifically on the matter of visas to work and invest in the UK,’ he added.


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