CANBERRA, Sep 18, 2019, News.com.au. The UK wants to strike up a new deal with Australia that would allow people to live and work in both countries without a visa. British Trade Secretary Liz Truss, who is in Canberra for pre-Brexit trade talks with Australian Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, today said the UK would be “looking at” a freedom of movement deal as part of those discussions, reported the News.com.au.
“We want a fully comprehensive trade deal that reflects our deep, ongoing relationship, the friendship between our two countries, the fact that Australians want to come and live and work in Britain, and Brits want to come and live and work in Australia,” Ms Truss said.
“Leaving the European Union really does give us a chance as a country to become more outward looking, to become more competitive, and to deepen our links with our partners right across the world.
“The reason that I’ve chosen to make Australia one of the first countries I’ve visited as Trade Secretary is this is an absolute priority for me to get on with this trade deal.”
Asked about a possible freedom of movement proposal, Ms Truss said: “It’s certainly something we will be looking at as part of our free trade negotiations.”
However, it comes a month after Prime Minister Scott Morrison backed away from a New Zealand-style arrangement with the UK after his meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The Trans-Tasman agreement allows for free movement of citizens of Australia and New Zealand between the two countries, and allows New Zealanders to enter Australia under a special visa that means Kiwis can visit, study, and work in the country indefinitely.
“The New Zealand arrangement is quite unique and it’s not one we would probably ever contemplate extending,” Mr Morrison said last month.
The UK Government is also looking to secure agreements with New Zealand, Japan and the US, as well as potentially joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“As the UK prepares to leave the EU on October 31, we look forward to taking back control of our trade policy and negotiating new free trade agreements,” Ms Truss said in a statement.
“I am visiting some of our most like-minded trade partners this week to send a clear message: the UK is an open, welcoming business destination and we are ready to trade.”
Lower tariffs on alcohol imports or new opportunities in industries such as financial services or technology were flagged as possible outcomes for the UK’s trade deal with Australia, which Ms Truss said could be achieved in “months rather than years”.
Mr Johnson previously flagged his interest in a free trade arrangement with Australia and New Zealand in February, after it was recommended in a report handed down by British Conservative MP and foreign policy speciality Bob Seely.
“Bob’s ideas about the Anglosphere are entirely correct … If we can do something better (with Australia, Canada and NZ) we certainly should,” Mr Johnson said at the time.
He added that he had long championed the idea of a common travel area between Britain and Australia, the Financial Review reported.
“These are nations that are very similar in many ways — we share very, very similar interests and a uniquely shared set of values,” he said.