London mayor calls for open UK immigration for Australian workers

27 Aug 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

London mayor Boris Johnson has called for greater ease of labour movement between Australia and Britain.

Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson said that the UK work permit regulations and the Australian visa rules should be adapted to create a "bilateral free labour mobility zone" between the two countries.

He made the statement in his column written after an encounter with Australian teacher Sally Roycroft following a keynote speech he gave at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Ms Roycroft told the mayor that she had been "effectively kicked out of Britain" because she wasn't an EU citizen, despite the fact that she has spent the last few years working to improve the lives of young people in Harringay and Tower Hamlets in London.

Mr Johnson took exception to Ms Roycroft's treatment, citing similarities between British and Australian cultures as a good reason for relaxing UK work permit regulations. He wrote that doing so would be "good for the UK, where skilled people like Sally would no longer face an absurd discrimination" and "good for Australia, where the unspoken reality is that Australians are actually quite keen to encourage more immigration from Britain".

Until 1973 British Commonwealth nations had preferential trade agreements with the UK. But in the early seventies, the UK moved to be more closely allied with its European neighbours and since then visa and work permit negotiations for countries such as Australia have become increasingly difficult to negotiate.

Mr Johnson urged Britain to reconsider its approach and seek "a wider destiny [than European ties] for our country".