Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK, Alexander Downer, is attempting to use Brexit as an opportunity to negotiate a better deal for Aussies looking to move to the UK.
Decline in the number of Australians working in the UK
European workers perform many skilled and unskilled jobs in the UK. After the vote to leave the EU, there is speculation that those jobs may be open to people from other parts of the world, particularly Commonwealth countries.
Since 2008, the number of Australian nationals working in the UK has dropped by 40%. Although this may be partly due to economic factors, the increased Tier 2 immigration measures are said to be predominantly to blame. This includes the increased salary threshold of £35,000 to gain Indefinite Leave to Remain that came into effect on 6 April 2016.
Looking over the longer term, the number of Australians granted a work visa – now known as a Tier 2 visa – has declined by 50% in the past ten years. Over this time, only 15,000 Aussies have received this visa.
Could EU workers be replaced by Australians?
When the UK reduced entry routes for Australian skilled workers in 2011 (capping employer-sponsored visas at 20,000 places a year), the British government cited requirements by the European Union to prioritise workers within the zone.
If Brexit goes ahead, there is talk that positions currently occupied by EU nationals could be made available to workers from other nations, especially those from Commonwealth countries. While nothing has been confirmed, there is hope that the vote could at least open the door to negotiations.