London Mayor Boris Johnson has called for immigration into the United Kingdom to be rebalanced away from the European Union and towards “the English speaking peoples” of the Commonwealth, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and “an end to porous borders”.
In a rallying call to those who have watched as uncontrolled European immigration has taken priority over old allies in the Commonwealth, Johnson said: “In 2013 I visited Australia and was reminded of the myriad enduring bonds between “the English-speaking peoples”, to use Churchill’s phrase. I was also struck by the strength of the Australian economy. A year previously I had been in India, marvelling at its economic growth and yet wondering why Britain’s share of Indian trade remains so relatively small.
“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… The UK has bonds of history, language, law, family and customs across the world and we would be foolish not to make more of these at this time of profound global economic revival”. The Mayor said it was time for Britain to “recast” its relationship with Europe and the World, bringing about “immigration controls, and an end to porous borders”.
Unlimited immigration from Europe, combined with efforts to reduce net numbers has resulted in a “crash” of Commonwealth arrivals, who have been squeezed by the government, explains the report entitled ‘How to Solve a Problem Like a Visa’. Annual immigration by from Old Commonwealth nations – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa – peaked at 73,000 in 2004, but had fallen to 29,000 in 2011. In the same period, immigration from the European Union grew by 30,000 to 182,000 a year.
The report calls for significant changes to Britain’s immigration regime, suggests creating a separate airport queue for citizens of nations where the Queen is head of state and those travelling on special Commonwealth business visas, and backs Boris Johnson’s suggestion for bilateral agreements with other like-nations such as Australia and New Zealand for labour mobility. Speaking of the case of a young Australian teacher who had been kicked out of the UK in 2013, Johnson said: “In spite of all her efforts she has been effectively kicked out of Britain. What is her crime? That she isn’t French. Nor is she German, or Polish, or Croat, or Italian, or Greek, or Portuguese.
“In 1973 we betrayed our relationships with Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand…it was assumed that in order to be internationalist it was enough to be European. Well it is perfectly obvious in 2013 that this is no longer enough and we need to seek a wider destiny for our country”. Johnson pointed to the agreement that already exists between Australia and New Zealand, where a visa for citizens of the two countries to visit and work each other is free and easy to get, but infers no rights to state benefits whatsoever.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Tim Hewish, executive director of Commonwealth Exchange and author of the report said: “The UK’s visa system is broken and needs urgent reform. On the one hand we have free movement of people from the EU, on the other we impose heavy restrictions on the Commonwealth.
“That means the UK is effectively cutting itself off from a market and the talents of 2.3bn people, many of whom share our language and values.”