Saturday , May 25 2024

The UK’s New Secure Border and What it Means for CANZUK

Trade and Free Immigration Agreements

Around the world most geopolitical partnerships are regional because at times of peace, those in close-proximity are usually the most culturally and hence politically aligned. In order to move politically forward the political differences between the neighbouring countries needs to be addressed so that they can “do more together”. However, in the case of the European Union (EU), a centralised body was created to bring together “the European Family of Nations”. However, this centralised body lost democratic accountability with the general population and did not address the political differences of the populace of each different country while steamrolling forward to “do more together”. As a result, there is a surge in Eurosceptism across the EU and on the 23rd of June 2016, the British had a referendum on their membership of the European Union. In this highly contentious referendum 17,410,742 (52 %) opted to Leave while 16,141,241 (48 %) opted to Remain and this gave Leave a 1,269,501 (4 %) edge over Remain.

The two most popular political ideas put forward, relating to Brexit (before and after the referendum) are a “Canadian Style Trade Deal” with the EU and an “Australian Points Based Immigration System”. These successful policies are named after and designed by two different countries, however these countries are not chosen at random; they are indeed the countries the British feel the strongest emotional, cultural and politically attachment to. These are the countries the British first consider as part of their “Family of Nations”. Their exclusion from “the European Family of Nations” is in essence why many British consider themselves “Not at All European” or have a very weak European feeling with very few feeling a strong European feeling (British Social Attitudes Survey). As a result of the referendum and implementation of such policies, changes are being made at the UK border which allow for exciting opportunities outside of the EU. This document discusses two papers, one released on the 19th of December 2018, “The UK’s future skills-based immigration system” released by the UK Government and the Brexit: European Commission implements “no-deal” Contingency Action Plan in specific sectors released by the European Commission on the same date.

The Case for CANZUK

The most exciting future possibility is the future relationship between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which collectively make the acronym CANZUK and following a petition advocating for CANZUK Freedom of movement with >265,000 signatures, a CANZUK Treaty has already been put forward as a “flagship game-changing policy” by Erin O’Toole on the Canadian Conservative Party Manifesto and was voted through with 97 % at their CPC Convention in August 2018.

Critics of the CANZUK Treaty cite the fact that Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are geographically separated as a reason why a Free Immigration Agreement between the four countries couldn’t work, however we make the case and point that the most important metric for a Free Immigration Agreement is political and cultural alignment so those freely immigrating from one country to another can integrate into and contribute to their host society. Unlike the EU, the CANZUK countries have a shared official language, English, and the use of this shared language immediately makes a citizen from one CANZUK country “feel at home” when they visit another CANZUK country. Another important metric is equivalent GDP/capita as an inequivalence in this metric does not lead to reciprocal freedom of movement, rather conversely it leads to a strong/push factor with net emigration of one countries populace into the other. In terms of GDP/capita none of the CANZUK countries deviate substantially from their average value. The Human Development Index is also equivalently very high in the CANZUK countries. The CANZUK countries have a strongly aligned political outlook and advocate for free trade. Canada is looking to its traditional allies as its nearest neighbour the USA becomes protectionist, the UK is likewise looking to its traditional allies as it leaves the protectionist EU block and Australia and New Zealand are also looking to their traditional allies when it comes to dealing with their nearest neighbour China.

It is somewhat ironic that the high-profile politicians who advocate for Remain and accuse those who support Brexit of being xenophobic and looking in the past, when it is, they who are confined to Europe. Perhaps conversely it is they who are confined to the past when it took 10 weeks to travel from Britain to Australia by boat and the only means of communication, we had was by sending a letter by post. Nowadays we have instant global connections, where we can text and video call in real time to the other side of the world and incidentally, such technology was pioneered by the CANZUK nations and their desire to connect to one another. The United Kingdom began the Industrial Revolution in 1760 and the first transatlantic line for instance was installed in 1956 between Scotland, UK and Newfoundland, Canada. The ties between Newfoundland and the UK are incredibly entrenched with Newfoundland being the first British settlement in North America established in 1610. Substantial advancements have been made in aviation since the Royal Air Force was established 100 years ago, the Australian airline Qantas now makes it possible to fly non-stop direct from Australia to the UK in less than a day:

“When Qantas created the Kangaroo Route to London in 1947, it took four days and nine stops. Now it will take just 17 hours from Perth non-stop.”

Other critics seem to see a trade deal and an immigration agreement as one and the same thing. In the case of the UK, they state the UK must have an open border with the EU or worse be fully integrated into the EU-Superstate in order to trade. However, this is absolute bunkum, Australia’s biggest trading partner is China and they do not have a Free Immigration Agreement and are nowhere near negotiating one. Canada’s biggest trading partner is the United States, it’s level of trade with the United States does not incorporate it into the United States. Moreover, Canada also has achieved a close trading relationship with the EU via the CETA Agreement which does not involve a Free Immigration Agreement.

The point of a CANZUK treaty is not to create a super-state such as the “The United Kingdom of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Northern Ireland” rather it is an agreement that seeks to allow Free trade in goods/services, visa-free labour/leisure mobility for citizens, including retirement relocation, reciprocal healthcare agreement, increased consumer choice/protection for travel and security coordination. Since the CANZUK treaty is not looking to form a superstate with a centralised parliament, micro-managing and dictating each countries trade and immigration policies, the CANZUK treaty will not impede with the fact that Canada, trades more with North America, Australia and New Zealand more with Asia and the United Kingdom with Europe. Before going on to discuss CANZUK in more detail it is worth discussing the limitations of some existing Free Immigration Agreements for instance in the European Union.

The Schengen Zone, The Common Travel Area and The Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement

At present Free Immigration Agreements are under intense scrutiny, this is due to the shambolic setup of the Schengen Zone. The Schengen Zone has the major problem that there are few to no checks between internal members of Schengen States which in theory wouldn’t have been a problem if the Schengen Area was setup properly and the external Schengen States had secured their external border as a requirement to joining the Schengen Area. The failure of the EU to satisfy the minimum requirement of a Secure External Border for a Free Immigration Agreement, is perhaps a consequence of the blinkered outlook of the Eurofederalists who are always looking to steamroll expansion eastwards for “More Europe”. As a result of an insecure external border and no internal borders, unregistered migrants, then are free to migrate to a Schengen State of their choosing. Politically this has been contentious, and the ever more unpopular EU Commission are using it as a power grab in a move for more centralisation, via a Common EU Asylum policy, in which they attempt to dictate migrant quotas to often unwilling member states. They are also using the immigration crisis as a means, to an end, to create a centralised EU defence force, otherwise known as Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). Moreover, many internal Schengen States have two-faced politicians which criticise the Schengen frontier nations when they attempt to secure their border (Hungary) and equally criticise them when they don’t (Greece).

The Common Travel Area was established in 1923 as a solution to the breakdown of the 1801-1922 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland into the two distinct political units the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland following Irish independence. In 1973, the UK and RoI joined the EEC to the detriment of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This became the ever-more centralised EU in 1993. The British Government knew reliance on the rest of the EU, presently EU26 for border security was a risk and although as part of EU treaties had Freedom of Movement with the EU, it sensibly did not sign up to the Schengen Zone. The Republic of Ireland mutually wished to maintain its Common Travel Area with the UK, which long existed before their accession into the EEC/EU and checked anyone coming in or out of the Common Travel Area operating with matching standards to the UK. This meant, that although there was a free immigration agreement between the EU and UK/RoI, citizens entering/exiting the Common Travel Area had passport checks. In 1973, the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement was established between Australia and New Zealand. This follows a similar protocol to the Common Travel Area however because the two nations do not share a land border, it has allowed for additional restrictions such as the inability to apply for benefits without working for up to 2 years requirements. It should be noted that the ability to benefit shop has not been a contentious issue within the CTA as the UK and RoI offer a comparable level of Social Security and the freedom of movement is reciprocal and the GDP/capita is on a similar level. However, at an EU level, it is widely seen as an issue, because not all member states offer an equivalent level of social security and the GDP/capita of some EU member states is an order of magnitude lower than others. As a result, it facilitates and indeed encourages a one-way movement of those who fully intend to milk the system to leech off their host society.

The Electronic Travel Authorisation, Tourists and E-gates

Recently the UK announced its immigration whitepaper where it will introduce an Electronic Travel Authorisation System very similar to that of Canada (Australia and New Zealand already have a similar system).

“Currently, non-visa nationals (excluding EEA nationals) only require a passport to enter the UK as visitors, and they have little or no contact with the Home Office prior to their arrival. As a result, they only find out at the UK border whether they are eligible to enter the UK.

The proposed ETA scheme is similar to the approach taken by many of the UK’s international partners, such as the USA and Canada. The USA introduced their Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) in January 2009 and the ETA became mandatory in Canada in November 2016. The concept of obtaining pre-travel authorisation therefore is a familiar concept to many carriers and passengers.”

In other words, one fills on the online ETA and the UK government can carry out a background check, if the passport is flagged up for instance due to a criminal record, they can further investigate or decline entry. The person with the flagged passport and the carrier will be notified meaning the carrier will cancel the ticket and the person will be unable to fly. Because the RoI reciprocates with the UK regarding the CTA and the tourist industries within the CTA are intimately linked, and the Security Protocols being mutually beneficial the RoI will more than likely also adopt the UK’s ETA system. This also prevents a “hard border” in Northern Ireland. The differences will lie within the fact that EU26 citizens will have the right to work in the RoI but will not be able to work in the UK without a visa. With Brexit the UK is still very much open for business and the government has stated:

“We do not intend to require visitors who are citizens of current EU Member States to obtain a visit visa in advance of travel and we intend to allow them to continue to use e-gates to make entry quick and easy. We propose to make binding commitments to this effect in a future mobility partnership, if the EU reciprocates. Tourists will continue to enjoy a generous entitlement to spend up to six months in the UK. Visitors coming to the UK for short-term business reasons will be able, as now, to carry out a wide range of activities, including permitted paid engagements. We will discuss with stakeholders whether these arrangements can be improved to reflect business need.”

The EU has already replied that it will reciprocate in this area:

“It is recalled that the Commission has already adopted a proposal for a Regulation which exempts UK nationals from visa requirements, provided that all EU citizens are equally exempt from UK visa requirements. In particular, Member States should take measures to ensure that UK citizens legally residing in the EU on the date of withdrawal will continue to be considered legal residents. Member States should adopt a pragmatic approach to granting temporary residence status. It is recalled that the Commission has already adopted a proposal for a Regulation which exempts UK nationals from visa requirements, provided that all EU citizens are equally exempt from UK visa requirements.”

Moreover, the UK is expanding its usage of egates in particular to non-EU allies:

“Nationals from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea will be allowed to use e-gates to enter the UK from next summer onwards. In 2017, 10.2 million people arrived from these countries and crossed the UK border, constituting over half of all arrivals from outside the EEA.”

The fact that the UK Government boldly states this in its Immigration Whitepaper also means there is likely an underlying trade-deal agreed in principle between the UK and all these countries already, although it of course cannot be officially published until Brexit Day. Those from the RoI also naturally have good relations with all these countries (with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States alongside the United Kingdom having a very large Irish diaspora) and it will bolster their tourist industry. The 4 CANZUK countries have a very pragmatic outlook when it comes to immigration, unlike many Schengen States. For the Free Immigration agreement, in terms of security, it is actually a great security advantage, Britain and New Zealand are islands, Australia is a continent of its on and although Canada shares a long border southern border with another country, that other country is none other than the United States, making it one of the most secure borders with very few undocumented migrants entering Canada via the United States. Moreover, unlike the EU each CANZUK country will have its own ETA. For maximum security, the details of the CANZUK nations will be shared as they presently are being four out of the five eyes security partnership. Each CANZUK country therefore will reserve the right to decline or further question citizens of other CANZUK countries, who have shown up with a red flag on their ETA for instance due to a criminal record or are on a watch list for extremism.

Australian Style Points Based Immigration System

The UK government have also decided to implement an Australian Points Based Immigration System:

“At present, we have a dual system of admitting only highly skilled workers from outside the EU, and workers of all skill levels from the EU. We will replace this with a single route which gives access to highly skilled and skilled workers from all countries. Those coming to the UK on this route will need an employer to sponsor them.”

This immigration system ends the preference of EU (with exception to the RoI) to non-EU workers. This immigration system will charge employers for taking a migrant over a local worker, which is a move to encourage local employers to train up local youth. A high proportion of the British public feel that school leavers, are disadvantaged when taking up employment as employers will select a candidate from overseas who possesses a couple of years of work experience in a similar field and the school leavers are in the catch 22 – they cannot obtain experience without working and cannot work with out experience.

“The MAC recommended retaining the minimum salary threshold at £30,000 and we will engage businesses and employers as to what salary threshold should be set.”

The UK government however mentioned the skilled immigration route in terms of a minimum salary, limiting immigration solely by wage may be a problem as it directs new migrants to areas that have higher wages due to associated higher living costs, for instance London and the South East of England in particular. These areas are already overcrowded, and it would be better if the government spelt out a strategic plan to help develop industries in the rest of the country. The government however did mention some regional short occupation lists, presumably including the likes of teachers:

“We have asked the MAC to review the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), including for occupations at RQF levels 3-5. They will report in spring 2019. Scotland already has a separate SOL and we will also invite the MAC to compile a such a list for Northern Ireland and consider whether the composition of the SOL needs to be different for Wales”.


The UK government has stated that it is still keen for EU students to continue coming to the UK to study and although so far, no Universities have decided to raise tuition fees for EU students, EU students who don’t have settled status will need to acquire a visa. The UK also states that it wants to continue its participation with the ERASMUS program which is current in the EU’s interests as more EU students want to come to the UK to study for example to learn English than vice versa:

“EEA students coming to study, other than for very short periods, will have to demonstrate the same eligibility requirements as current non-EEA students do, and be subject to the same rights whilst studying and to poststudy work; Both non-EEA and EEA students studying at postgraduate level, or studying at undergraduate level at an institution with degree awarding powers, will be given a post-study leave period of up to six months in which to gain work experience or look a skilled job in the UK, while those who obtain a PhD will have a 12-month period; Short-term EEA and non-visa national students can come to the UK for up to six months within the visitor or short-term study system126 or on short term study visas for English language courses lasting more than six and less than 12 months; and continued participation in the ERASMUS programme and its successors, if agreed as part of the mobility framework with the EU.”

It also mentions the opportunity to seek employment for those who have completed their degree in the UK. The UK also mentions successors to the ERASMUS program, it is logical for the UK to try and implement a similar program with the countries that it has added to its egates: USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and South Korea as there is perhaps an even higher reciprocal desire for students from these countries to study in each other’s countries.

Canadian Style Trade Deal

The UK government are still trying to negotiate the best type of trade deal they can with the EU. The type of Trade Deal that is best for trade but that does not constrict the UK’s trade with the rest of the world.  Much of this is modelled on the Canadian Style Trade Deal however the UK is geographically closer to the EU and has potential issues with the border to the RoI. Obviously after Brexit there will be a high level of trade between the UK and EU and the UK also separates the RoI for the rest of the EU26. The Irish government discuss the UK as a landbridge:

“The landbridge is the term used to describe the route to market that connects Irish importers and exporters to international markets via the UK road and ports network. It is a strategically important route to market for many Irish importers and exporters, especially for short shelf life products, and is primarily used for roll-on roll-off traffic.”

From the image below, you can see how intimately the shipping routes between the UK and RoI are and all the routes marked with the red square come via the UK. There is also the case that the RoI matches the UK’s standards in many cases and these often differ from the EU’s standards. One obvious case is that of the electricity market where the UK/RoI use the same socket and NI/RoI have a highly integrated electricity network and all cars are customised for driving on the left-hand side. The Irish governments paper pretty much in essence states it will be subjected to EU rules however it will be seriously impacted if the EU puts up trade barriers to the UK to the detriment of trade. For instance, in the case of cars, if there are high tariffs, then the UK will buy elsewhere and cars manufactured in the EU will have to customise far less for the left hand side road, as the RoI is a far smaller market than the UK. As a result, the cars will cost more for the RoI and if the RoI tries to buy from the UK, it will have to pay more because of the EU tariff. If the checking of goods into/out of the UK is made draconian by the EU then the Irish in most cases will be doubly affected as they use the UK as a landbridge.

The EU Commission has stated:

“In a no deal scenario, all relevant EU legislation on the importation and exportation of goods will apply to goods moving between the EU and the UK. The Commission has today adopted the following technical measures:

A Delegated Regulation to include the seas surrounding the UK in the provisions on time-limits within which entry summary declarations and pre-departure declarations have to be lodged prior to leaving or entering the Union’s customs territory.

A proposal for a Regulation to add the UK to the list of countries for which a general authorisation to export dual use items is valid throughout the EU.”

As the UK contains London, a massive transport hub with international flights connecting from Australia, Canada, USA, Japan and the EU itself, it wants to remain connected to sustain its tourist market and consequently “The Commission has today adopted two measures that will avoid full interruption of air traffic between the EU and the UK in the event of no deal. These measures will only ensure basic connectivity and in no means replicate the significant advantages of membership of the Single European Sky. This is subject to the UK conferring equivalent rights to EU air carriers, as well as the UK ensuring conditions of fair competition. A proposal for a Regulation to ensure temporarily (for 12 months) the provision of certain air services between the UK and the EU. A proposal for a Regulation to extend temporarily (for 9 months) the validity of certain aviation safety licences.”

Right of Permanent Residence, Settled Status and Citizenship

As the UK leaves the EU, it is implementing a Settled Status scheme for EU citizens living in the UK

“Position of EU citizens already in the UK During the Implementation Period, we will implement the EU Settlement Scheme. This gives EU citizens already here, and also those who arrive in the UK during the Implementation Period, the opportunity to secure their future residence in the UK. The UK has agreed with the EU on rights for EU citizens already living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU, to enable them to carry on with their lives broadly as now.”

The European Commission has responded:

“As regards social security coordination, the Commission considers it necessary that Member States take all possible steps to ensure legal certainty and to protect the rights acquired by EU27 citizens and UK nationals who exercised their right to free movement before 30 March 2019”.

This was expected as people who migrated legally should not be penalised later, due to a political change. However, we want to make it clear that those who advocate for CANZUK freedom of movement do so along the lines of the Trans-Tasman agreement. Individual agreements made for instance; settled status of an EU citizen in the UK or permanent status of an immigrant to Canada will not give them any special treatment in Australia just like a refugee New Zealand has admitted does not have any right to go to Australia under the Trans-Tasman agreement. The Australian border service will treat the three examples as a non-CANZUK citizen and act on their own jurisdiction with respect to the non-CANZUK passport they hold. This avoids several of the mistakes the EU made when it comes to Free Immigration Agreements.

If they however, meet the requirements of the nation to sit and pass the citizenship test which usually includes, at least 4 years residency, good character and no major criminal record as well as fluency in English (or English or French in Canada) they can become dual-nationals and then as a citizen of a CANZUK Country enjoy the benefits of the Free Immigration Agreement. It is likely that as a perquisite to a Free Immigration Agreement that the governments of the four CANZUK countries may work together to ensure a minimum standard of Citizenship test but as things stand, the systems they have in place are very similar and the UK is certainly basing its future model on its best friends Canada, Australia and New Zealand.


British Social Attitudes Survey: Europe

March 2018 Quantas Dreamliner

December 2018 The UK’s Future Skills-Based Immigration System

December 2018 Brexit: European Commission implements “no-deal” Contingency Action Plan in specific sectors

December 2018 Department of Foreign Affairs Ireland Brexit Contingency Action Plan

Come to Ireland Map:

Become a Canadian Citizen

Become an Australian Citizen

Become a New Zealand Citizen

Become a British Citizen


About Philip Yip

Dr Philip Yip is a Researcher at the University of Strathclyde in the field of Biophysics. Outside of research, he has taken an interest in British politics and has been a vocal advocate for the CANZUK movement and is an admin of the CANZUK Facebook Group (which the reader is welcome to join).

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