*spoiler alert* it’s bad news. Probably.
On June 23 the UK is going to vote on whether or not to remain within the 28-member European Union, or whether to leave economic and political partnership.
Australian diplomats told SBS they were watching the debate closely, and said it was in Australia’s interests for Britain to remain in the EU. We asked the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade what it would mean for Australians if Britain did leave.
“It would not be helpful to speculate now on the possible ramifications of a UK exit and what it would mean for Australia,” they said.
The Feed has decided to ignore that advice. Wildly.
Whether the UK stays or goes, most agree it will have a massive impact on British voters – one study said leaving could have a significant impact on incomes – but a Brexit would have flow on effects for millions of Australians who live, work, study or travel to the UK and Europe.
Exactly what effects, nobody’s really sure.
It appears that a British departure – the first ever exit – would be so unprecedented that even diplomats don’t have any idea what it would mean for the work and travel rights of millions citizens.
The UK High Commission told us they estimate 1.5 million Australians have dual citizenship with the UK, or are eligible for dual citizenship. If you’re one of them, a Brexit might look pretty dire.
Currently dual citizens have the right to live, study, work and travel visa-free in EU countries. More than a million Britons are currently living in the European Union, but if the UK exits, that could all come to an end.
Travel Agents told SBS that if you were eligible for UK citizenship, it was often easier to get a British passport than it was to get a working visa elsewhere in the EU.
If you don’t have dual citizenship, a Brexit will likely have less of an impact. Working holiday visas to the UK are not transferable to the EU anyway.
There could even be a silver-lining.
Migration is currently a sensitive political issue in the UK – the country recently restricted the work visas it granted to non-EU countries, such as Australia. That decision was likely a reaction to the number of workers entering the country through the EU’s freedom of movement policy.
A Brexit could cut that flow, allowing the country to take more non-EU citizens, or even enter a visa-free arrangements with countries like Australia. There’s nothing to technically prevent this from happening now though – apart from politics.
Australian businesses are pretty unequivocal though, they think the Brexit would be a bad idea.
Jason Collins, CEO of the European Australian Business Council, says the businesses he represents are nearly universally opposed to a Brexit. “It would create an enormous amount of uncertainty,” he told The Feed.
“A huge number of Australian companies use the UK as their regional headquarters for Europe,” he says. A Brexit could force them to relocate people and offices onto mainland Europe.
Australian diplomats are also unhappy at the prospect of a separation. Australia relies on Britain to be our eyes, ears and sometimes our voice inside the European Union. We have more diplomats in London than any other European capital.
Like Australia, Britain supports freer trade. Both want to see the EU scale back its subsidies to farmers so others can compete fairly – countries like France line up on the other side, saying they need to support their agricultural industry.
Things are even more sensitive now because Australia is in the early stages of negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU.
“We’re hoping to rely on UK support,” Mr Collins told us, “Australia will need as many champions as possible.”
“It is to our advantage if Britain is part of the EU. They are part of a big market and they're a good friend to have there,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently said.
“But it is a matter for the British people,” he added.
The EU also wants Britain to stay in, as EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker rather sweetly said “All Europeans want Britain to remain in the family."