IT WAS ALWAYS going to be ‘Australian-style’. When Boris Johnson unveiled his government’s new points-based immigration system in early February 2020, designed to ‘deliver Brexit’ by shifting Britain’s migrant intake ‘away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe’, the spin cycle was at full tilt. This was no raising of the drawbridge, but a signal that ‘the UK is open and welcoming to the top talent from across the world’ – inspired by the shining example of Australia. Throughout the 2019 election campaign, Johnson had relentlessly touted an ‘Australian-style points-based system’ as a way of ‘taking back control’ of Britain’s borders. Though criticised by his own independent advisory committee for signalling ‘different things to different people’, the ‘Australian-style’ tag stuck.
Capitalising on the encouraging voter response, Johnson took the Australian connection a step further within days of ‘getting Brexit done’ on 31 January. In a major address to business leaders, the Prime Minister went out of his way to dispel outmoded conceptions of Britain’s future options outside the European Union. ‘The choice is emphatically not “deal or no deal”,’ he insisted. ‘The question is whether we agree a trading relationship with the EU comparable to Canada’s – or more like Australia’s. In either case, I have no doubt that Britain will prosper.’
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