Thanks in part to the misbegotten euro project, the EU has turned into a microclimate of economic gloom, with colossal unemployment and misery in those many parts of Europe that are being brutally deprived of the safety valve of devaluation. Since 1988, when Jacques Delors and others launched their frantic drive for monetary union, Europe has shrunk in importance and in its contribution to world output – from about 29 per cent to about 19 per cent today; and that is in spite of the considerable expansion of the EU.
There has been growth, to be sure. In fact, the world economy has grown by something like $10 trillion since the global financial crisis began in 2008. But that growth has taken place everywhere else – in Africa, in Asia and, above all, in the very Commonwealth countries that British negotiators so snootily disregarded in 1973. We need to raise our eyes beyond Europe, forging and intensifying links with countries that are going to be growing in the decades ahead – countries that offer immense opportunities for British goods, people, services and capital. And you could not do better than by starting with Australia.
This is not just a phenomenally beautiful and relatively underpopulated country with stupendous natural resources. By fluke of history it happens to be intimately cognate with Britain. I don’t just mean that we once supplied them with the dregs of the Victorian penal system, or that we have cricket and rugby in common. I mean that we British are more deeply connected with the Australians – culturally and emotionally – than with any other country on earth.
As I walk around Sydney today, I see advertisements for the recipes of Jamie Oliver. I meet people who watch Top Gear, who have fundamentally the same view of the world, basically the same set of assumptions, the same sense of humour, and – though Australians have in many ways adorned and improved modern English – we have the same language. Apart from anything else, they voted in 1999 not just to remain part of the Commonwealth but to retain Her Majesty the Queen as their head of state.
That is mainly, of course, because all the alternatives looked too ghastly – but it is a consideration, none the less; and it makes it all the more disgusting that we are treating Sally Roycroft in this way. It is time to undo the damage of 1973, and give her exactly the same freedom of establishment that we give – say – a French teacher trying to find a job in London. It is time for Britain and Australia to set up a bilateral Free Labour Mobility Zone.
It would be good for the UK, where skilled people like Sally would no longer face an absurd discrimination. It would be good for Australia, where the unspoken reality is that Australians are actually quite keen to encourage more immigration from Britain, and it would be a small but practical way of intensifying British links with the growing economy of Oceania. It would be an assertion that we are no longer thinking of ourselves as little Europeans, run by Brussels, but as a country with a truly global perspective.
I suppose there might be some objection from the EU – but they should be told firmly to stuff it. There is already variable geometry in EU border control arrangements. It is outrageous and indefensible that Sally Roycroft is deprived of a freedom that we legally confer on every French person. She ends her letter with these plangent words. “I am a bloody good teacher, I worked hard to ensure that your children were given the best opportunities and I just want to come back.”
It is time she was given a fair suck of the sauce bottle, as the Australians say.