Australia wants better visa access to UK as part of post Brexit trade agreement

by Ray Clancy on February 21, 2017

Australia could find it easier to move to the UK to work after the country’s leading diplomat said that better access to visa would be part of a trade agreement between the two countries.

The UK is set to trigger Article 50, the process by which the formal leaving of the European Union begins, within the next few weeks and Prime Minister Theresa May has already indicated that a trade deal with Australia is top of the Brexit agenda.

By leaving the EU Britain is free to negotiate its own deals with other nations such as Australia and the United States, but officials will find the terms tough at a time when the UK wants to reduce immigration.

Australia’s High Commissioner Alexander Downer called for work visa rules for Australians to be simplified as part of any trade deal. He said he wants to see a non-discriminatory approach for Australians wanting to work in the UK.

He explained that it was nonsensical that a taxi driver from Bucharest in Romania can get free access to work in the UK under the current EU arrangements but a brain surgeon from Sydney faces a harder task to get a work visa.

Visa negotiations would normally be conducted separately but Downer indicated that he believe they should be in tandem with trade negotiations. He explained that it needs to be easier for Australian companies investing in the UK to bring some of their own employees to the country to work.

Exploratory discussions have already taken place between officials, but they cannot be formalised until the leave process begins. May has already indicated that she will trigger Article 50 by the end of March.

Meanwhile, British people living in the EU are urging the Government to take their needs into account. They are concerned that they face having to pay more for healthcare once the UK leaves and are also concerned about their status and pensions.

A representative of the British Community Committee of France, Christopher Chantrey, is to tell the House of Commons Health Committee that many expats could be forced to return to the UK, especially pensioners, if there is no agreement on future healthcare arrangements for UK citizens living in other EU member states.

The hearing will be examining the effects of Brexit on the National Health Service and there is concern that if a large number of expats return from countries like France and Spain this could place an added burden on the NHS. However the MPs will also hear that EU nationals leaving as a result of Brexit would mean less of a burden.

However, a recent report from healthcare charity the King’s Fund suggested that there is a lack of reliable data on the use of health services by immigrants. Under current rules EU nationals have access to health care on the same basis as nationals of the country they live in but now the British Government will need to negotiate arrangements with the EU as to what will happen.

It is estimated that around 1.2 million British expats living in other EU countries and around three million EU migrants live in the UK. The report acknowledged that there are concerns that Brexit will mean that UK pensioners currently living elsewhere in the EU may return, increasing pressures on health and social care services.

The report suggests that the British Government should negotiate new reciprocal agreements, pointing out that such agreements already exist with some non-EU countries, or alternatively seek to continue existing arrangements.

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