Chloe Westley worked on the digital team at Vote Leave and is now Digital Campaign Manager for Change Britain.
“Why are you even doing this?” I remember one friend asking me when I quit my job to work for the Leave campaign. “Everyone knows we’re going to vote Remain. Plus you’re Australian so it doesn’t really affect you.”
Looking back now, I can honestly say I wasn’t too sure myself that Britain would vote to leave the European Union; but could I really stand by and watch the UK chart a course that I disagreed with without at least giving it my all and trying to stop it from happening?
Working on the Vote Leave campaign was one of the best decisions I have made. Not just because we won, but because it gave me the chance to campaign with people who believed in the same, brighter future for Britain that I did.
The chance to restore the friendship between our two nations may not be important to every Australian, but it should. It’s what makes us who we are and explains where we are today. It’s what kept me going throughout a campaign that many said would never be successful. And it’s what convinces me that a different future is within reach for both our countries.
Leaving the EU was not only the best thing for Britain, but also for Australia and the Commonwealth. It presents the opportunity for Britain to welcome more young Australians live and work in a country that speaks our language and shares our history. It also means we can engage in free and open trade between our nations, and establish closer relations on matters of security and intelligence, keeping us safer in a world that is becoming far less safe and far more unpredictable.
Britain can now implement an immigration system that treats Australians fairly
As a member of the European Union, Britain must accept the free movement of people. That means that anyone born in an EU country has the automatic right to live and work in the UK, regardless of their background or qualifications. This has resulted in an unfair immigration system that discriminates against non-EU immigrants who have to meet strict visa requirements. Those who move to the UK from Commonwealth countries, such as Australia, India, New Zealand and Canada, are treated more harshly than those from Europe; Britain has been effectively welcoming neighbours and turning away family.
Those who were so shocked by Trump’s travel ban should equally be outraged at the discriminatory immigration system that the EU has forced Britain to adopt.
Leaving the EU, and the Single Market, will allow Britain to implement a fair immigration system that treats EU and non EU immigrants equally. No longer will Australians be treated as second class immigrants in a country where many of us have family and ancestors.
Britain can now sign a Free Trade Agreement with Australia
Despite all these years of close co-operation, a shared language, culture and history, Britain and Australia haven’t signed a free trade deal. Why? Because EU trade deals have to be agreed by every EU member state, and Italy has consistently blocked a trade between the EU and Australia in order to protect their tinned tomato industry. By leaving the EU’s Customs Union, the UK will be free to negotiate new Free Trade Agreements without having to consult 27 other countries first. Australia was one of the first countries to express an interest in negotiating a new deal with the UK, and a bilateral Trade Working group has been established with the purpose of being ready to fast-track free trade negotiations once Britain formally leaves the European Union.
The UK/Australia military alliance can be strengthened
Throughout the EU referendum the British people were confronted with facts and figures from both sides. But perhaps the most misleading of all was the argument that membership of the European Union was essential to the safety and security of the British people. No mention of the NATO alliance or the United Nations, both established immediately after the Second World War to maintain peace. No mention of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels or the rise of far right extremism which has made Europe less safe. And no mention either of the vast networks of security and intelligence sharing that the UK has enjoyed long before it joined the EU.
Take the Five Eyes Alliance. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the United States are all members, and it’s one of the most comprehensive intelligence sharing alliances in history. Whether deliberate or not, the EU’s insistence that its members integrate further on matters of security has meant that those in charge of the European project are increasingly undermining the purpose of other supranational institutions like Five Eyes.
Leaving the EU will provide a much needed shot in the arm for intelligence sharing not just between Britain and Australia, but for the entire western world. Outside the EU Britain would be a far more valuable international player – engaged in NATO rather than the latest EU blunder in Africa, focused on the route causes of Islamic terrorism around the globe rather than failing to grapple with the symptoms of a migrant crisis that has been perpetuated by the inertia and values espoused by the EU.