UK’s Brexit from EU can bring positive opportunities for Australia

By @chelean on
Queen Elizabeth, Alexander Downer, Prince Philip
Britain's Queen Elizabeth talks with the Australian High Commissioner Alexander Downer (R) as she prepares to present Britain's Prince Philip with the Insignia of a Knight of the Order of Australia, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, southern England April 22, 2015. Reuters/John Stillwell/Pool

The United Kingdom’s Brexit can bring new opportunities for Australians, according to Alexander Downer, Australia’s high commissioner to the UK. He said the UK’s exit from the European Union shouldn’t affect Australia’s chances of entering trade deals with the UK.

Speaking with host Fran Kelly on ABC Radio, Downer, who campaigned for Remain before the EU referendum on Thursday, admitted that the true effects of Brexit on Australia are still unclear. However, he said that the event could provide opportunities for the country to negotiate new arrangements favourable to Australians working in the UK.

The UK currently has restrictions in place for Australians from becoming employed in Britain. In April, the British government imposed minimum salary requirement of £ 35,000 (AU$63,000) for non-Europeans before they are allowed to settle for longer than six years in the country. It previously cited EU requirements for the restrictions.

With the UK out of the EU, there could be changes for visa requirements for Australians hoping to work in Britain. This is a possibility, said Downer, but he refused to speak in a definite manner.

“Whether there’ll be opportunities to change [visa restrictions for Australians] when a new arrangement comes into place, we simply don’t know. But we should try and that we should do,” Downer said.

The Brexit also poses fresh opportunities for Australia to enter new free trade agreements with the European Union. Downer said on Friday that the EU referendum result in the UK, which saw 52 percent of voters in favour of Brexit, would have little impact on Australia’s attempts to enter into trade deals with the EU.

“I think we can negotiate a high quality Free Trade Agreement with the European Union,” he was quoted by the Australian Financial Review as saying. “Obviously, the UK is our closest partner in the European Union, but we do have very close relationships with other countries – France, Germany, Italy and, obviously, Ireland as well.”

European Australian Business Council chair Nick Greiner also said Brexit did not chance the economic case for an Australia-EU trade deal.

“I think the case for a free trade agreement remains and I wouldn’t have thought [Brexit] would fundamentally change either our approach or the EU approach,” he said. “Whether it makes it slightly harder because we don’t have British assistance, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t rate that [risk] highly.”