Happy Australia Day!
While it’s not a day that most Brits will notice, it is one we should. For the ties that bind us to our Antipodean cousins are strong, with around 1.2 million Britons living in Australia and over 100,000 Australians living in the UK. But this number has been in decline for some time now, accelerating in the past decade. Not because it’s becoming less popular to move here and for us to move there but because it has become harder. Government is getting in the way.
The British crackdown is part of the government’s insane target of getting net migration down to the tens of thousands. With the EU exempt from any measures, Theresa May’s crackdowns fall on the rest of the world: including those countries whose citizens share our language and share our monarch. It’s odd to think the Prime Minister is happy to share intelligence with CANZUK states unimpeded, but finds the idea of their citizens having a choice to move here unacceptable.
The Adam Smith Institute and our friends have a long and proud history of championing liberal immigration policy. Immigration makes us richer, increases our productivity and wages, reinforces our soft power and helps us tackle global poverty. Personally I prefer a more liberal system that looks to open borders as far as possible. But I recognise that it’s taken a beating in public debate in the past two decades and that to turn the tide, it makes sense to start where it’s popular. That’s how we’ll build the case for immigration again.
And it is politically popular. CANZUK International’s (who push for free movement between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK) online petition has over 200,000 signatories calling on governments to open their borders. In a poll of 2,000 people in each state conducted in 2017, they found that a vast majority of those polled were in favour of free movement within the CANZUK countries. 64% supported it in the UK, 72% in Australia, 77% in Canada and 81% in New Zealand.
It’s an idea whose time has come. It makes economic sense, it expands freedom and it will be an easy sell for politicians. So on this Australia Day I say: open the borders.