Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation wants free movement between UK, Canada, NZ and Australia

By Victoria Craw

The Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation wants to see unrestricted movement for citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK between nations.

The number of Kiwis living and working in the United Kingdom has fallen. Photo / 123RF
The number of Kiwis living and working in the United Kingdom has fallen. Photo / 123RF

While much of the world is throwing up new borders to clamp down on unwanted migrants, one organisation is pushing for free movement between New Zealand and a select group of countries.

The Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation wants to see unrestricted movement for citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK between nations.

Founder James Skinner claims to have "received significant support" from MPs and senators in each of the countries, who claim it would bring economic and social benefits.

An online petition calling for a European Union-style freedom of movement arrangement has gained 162,000 signatures.

"If the European Union can incorporate freedom of movement for citizens of 28 member states (all of whom have different cultures, languages and ancestries), there is no reason why a free movement initiative between Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom could not be introduced," he told news.com.au.

Mr Skinner claims the historical and cultural ties between the Commonwealth countries plus similarities in the legal and political system make it a no-brainer. Similar levels of economic growth, development, healthcare and quality of life added to the case that freedom of movement wouldn't be a "brain drain" for any particular nation, he said.

"Citizens of these nations could therefore move freely without the risk of a migration exodus occurring, which causes negative consequences for all economies involved," he said.

"One of the current problems with the European Union is citizens from less developed nations emigrating to more prosperous nations for employment opportunities and a better quality of life, causing a brain drain in the primary country and excessive immigration in the secondary country.

"With a free movement initiative between Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, we would not see such migration patterns as all countries involved are similarly developed with exceptional qualities of life."

It's one of a plethora of ideas fighting for oxygen in the post-Brexit debate as the UK works out what its relationship with Europe and the rest of the world will look like.

Boris Johnson has long been a champion of improved access for New Zealanders and Australians in the UK. Photo / AP
Boris Johnson has long been a champion of improved access for New Zealanders and Australians in the UK. Photo / AP

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has long been a champion of improved access for New Zealanders and Australians in the UK, stopped short of endorsing free movement, but said it would be a "fantastic thing if we had a more sensible system".

"You'll remember the difficulties we had in recruiting paramedics ... so this is something where I think we can make progress and I'm confident that we will," he said.

Despite historical ties, the number of New Zealanders living and working in the UK has fallen from around 18,000 in 2000 to 8500 in 2014, mostly as a result of previous changes which have restricted job opportunities.

The move for greater access is supported by the majority of citizens in each country, according to a survey by the Royal Commonwealth Society.

It found in a YouGov poll earlier this year that 70 per cent of Australians, 75 per cent of Canadians, 82 per cent of New Zealanders and 58 per cent of Britons supported free mobility, with those aged between 18 and 35 in New Zealand and Australia most enthusiastic.

Young Kiwis and Aussies are said to be a fan of the plan, according to a survey from the Royal Commonwealth Society. Photo / 123RF
Young Kiwis and Aussies are said to be a fan of the plan, according to a survey from the Royal Commonwealth Society. Photo / 123RF

But with about 64 million people in the UK, 34 million in Canada, 24 million in Australia and just 4 million in New Zealand, how would such an arrangement work in reality?

Mr Skinner said the plan would be to create a "single labour market" to service the combined economy that would allow people to work and study freely. It could also be a boon to those frustrated by delays to family reunification.

"With free movement between these nations, families and loved ones would not require visas or work permits, and can be reunited without the cost and stress of arduous immigration controls," he said.

- news.com.au, nzherald.co.nz

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