Australian trade minister 'can't imagine' free movement talks with UK
6 January 2020, 06:45 | Updated: 6 January 2020, 12:45
Australia's trade minister appears to have ruled out including visa-free travel in a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.
Simon Birmingham said he "can't imagine full and unfettered free movement" will be up for negotiation during trade discussions.
He told The Sydney Morning Herald: "We're not into full negotiating mode and we will have to see what the UK aspires to.
"But noting that work rights and movement of people in the UK has been a big part of the European Union debate, I would be surprised if complete liberalisation around migration and labour rights was on their agenda."
Mr Birmingham did say that he expected existing immigration rules would be adjusted to allow "more flexibility", however.
"How you draw the line around rights to access work visas and other visas is a different question, that has an entire spectrum of grey, between the black and white of no movement and unfettered movement," he added.
Britain's international trade secretary Liz Truss promoted the idea of free movement between the two countries during a visit to Australia in September, although she later appeared to step back from her comments.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also described the two countries as sharing "very, very similar interests and a uniquely shared set of values".
Australia already has a free movement agreement with New Zealand but Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has said that this arrangement is "not one we would probably ever contemplate extending".
The Herald expressed concerns that a deal with the UK could "unleash significant economic and social consequences" for Australia, including an "influx of unskilled Brits to Sydney and Melbourne".
Currently, Australians can come to the UK without a visa for up to six months as a tourist. To work, they must get either a working holiday visa, be sponsored, or have UK heritage via a parent of grandparent.
Britons need a visa to enter Australia, even as tourists.
Mr Birmingham said he hopes a trade deal can be agreed by the December 2020 deadline that Britain has set to finalise its post-Brexit relationship with Europe.
(c) Sky News 2020: Australian trade minister 'can't imagine' free movement talks with UK