This last month saw the formal launch of UK trade negotiations with our Australia and Kiwi cousins, presenting the perfect moment to explore the benefits of a far-reaching agreement on the movement of citizens across CANZUK.
Some may wonder if, having just recently extracted ourselves from the European Union’s freedom of movement, the British public would support such an arrangement, but polling suggests that we are strongly in favour.
In fact, as recently as March 2018, polling from CANZUK International showed that 68% of Brits favoured the introduction of free movement between the 4 countries, a 4% increase on 2017’s poll result.
Yet this clear majority pales in comparison to the support from Australia at 73%, Canada at 76% and a whopping 82% of Kiwis in favour.
The Trans Tasman Travel Arrangement (TTTA), agreed in 1973 between Australia and New Zealand, could act as a ready-made template for a CANZUK equivalent. Based on the shared ideals of multiculturalism, liberalism and equality, the TTTA has worked hand in hand with the Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement and has allowed people, goods and capital to flow freely across their borders.
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Canada and the United Kingdom are natural fellows for an extended travel arrangement, given that we share these noble ideals.
The similar economic make-up of each country also removes many of the pitfalls experienced with freedom of movement elsewhere, such as within the EU. For instance, the GDP per capita of CANZUK averages out to around $45,000 per annum across the bloc, with Australia’s GDP per capita highest at $57,400 and New Zealand’s lowest at $42,300. Contrast this with the disparity between EU countries ranging from $112,000 in Luxembourg, $55,000 in Germany and $26,000 in Bulgaria.
This similarity echoes the very similar costs of living in each country. All 4 CANZUK countries feature in the list of the 10 countries with the highest minimum wages, as well as the top 20 for average earnings. The economic similarities above can alleviate concerns of any mass migration taking place in a CANZUK Freedom of Movement Agreement, something that the EU has failed to prevent.
The EU example shows how freedom of movement between countries that do not share such harmonious economic factors can lead to waves of mass migration. This can lead to massive brain-drain and loss of skilled labour in the countries of origin, coupled with potential stagnation in wages in the settler country, benefitting neither in the long term.
Our shared culture and language make the facilitation of immigration and the integration of any inter-CANZUK migrants simple, without disrupting the fabric of our communities or burdening migrants with insurmountable challenges in education or opportunities in employment.
Finally, the high standard of our respective schools and educational institutions mean that mutual recognition of the attainment of our citizens can be assured and professional qualifications can be trusted regardless of their state of origin, as they are between Australia and New Zealand at present.
This would allow Canadian, Australian and Kiwi doctors and nurses to work in the UK to support our NHS, and vice versa. It would facilitate better sharing of entrepreneurship and technical know-how in fields ranging from agriculture to engineering. It would also encourage the sharing and development of ideas to solve the common problems of today and tomorrow in politics and elsewhere.
There are already 3.2million CANZUK citizens living in one another’s countries, sharing knowledge, expertise and experience across the four nations. This is despite restrictive visa controls everywhere except the Trans-Tasman Travel area.
Better facilitating the free movement of our citizens will benefit all 4 CANZUK countries, and in turn, improve our domestic economies, cultures and communities. The trade deals being negotiated this month are an excellent starting point with positive sounds being made on all sides.
The easing of visa requirements for labour migration between the bloc should be the first step towards CANZUK Freedom of Movement.
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