How Boris as UK PM will change Australia

LOVE him, loathe him or lampoon him, no British prime minster has ever come to the job with a greater affinity for Australia than Boris Johnson.

Technically, Tony Blair was here for longer, his family having lived in Adelaide for three and a half years when he was a boy.

But Johnson was here for a year at the pivotal age of 18. In that time he taught English, Latin and PE at Geelong Grammar's Timbertop campus, and - so he told a Melbourne audience many years later - he got around in "stubbie dacks" and developed a taste for VB.

When Johnson was made UK Foreign Minister in 2016, our own then Foreign Minister Julie Bishop commended him as a "great friend" to Australia, and said the time he had spent Down Under "augurs well for a very strong bilateral relationship".

Clearly, Johnson is well-versed in Australian politics. One of his closest advisers is the former Liberal Party strategist Lynton Crosby; more recently he called for the UK to adopt an Australian-style points system in its migrant intake program.

So he knows us. But what effect will a Boris Johnson prime ministership have on Australia?

 

Then Mayor of London Boris Johnson in Melbourne in 2017 as a guest of that city’s writers festival. Pictured here taking a Melbourne bike for a ride in Spring Street.
Then Mayor of London Boris Johnson in Melbourne in 2017 as a guest of that city’s writers festival. Pictured here taking a Melbourne bike for a ride in Spring Street.

 

TRADE

Back in 2017, Johnson stated that when the UK left the EU, he was "confident that Australia will be at, or near, the front of the queue for a new Free Trade Agreement with Britain."

But while Australia might be expected to benefit terms from such a scenario, David McCredie from the Australian British Chamber of Commerce cautioned against unrealistic expectations.

"[Boris] has made several pointed comments about re-engaging with Australia, particularly as a staging post for UK businesses looking into Asia," he said.

"But don't expect him to drop everything and rush into a free trade deal with Australia with no view of other markets."

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham told Sky in May that a no-deal Brexit - which Johnson has threatened - would create trade disruptions, but Australian companies had already made plans for such a scenario.

In a submission to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, the group Australian Business in Europe stated that 48 per cent of Australian companies currently doing export services into the EU are based in the UK - a proportion that will likely change after Brexit.

It is understood the big four banks are among the Australian companies eyeing off other European cities in which to base operations.

"All we can do is make sure Australia is as well prepared as possible in whatever scenario," Mr Birmingham said.

 

Then British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has his tie straightened by his then Australian counterpart Julie Bishop in his office, February 2017. The two enjoyed a convivial friendship. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Then British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has his tie straightened by his then Australian counterpart Julie Bishop in his office, February 2017. The two enjoyed a convivial friendship. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

 

AUSSIE DOLLAR

The Pound has declined in value since the 2016 Brexit referendum and is currently at a two-year low against the euro and the US dollar.

Financial experts say its value will drop further if Britain departs the EU without a deal by October 31. Could the Aussie dollar bounce as result?

"Not massively," says Mr McCredie. A no-deal Brexit will likely have a significant impact on the pound, he said, but as most of our trade is with regional partners, the Aussie dollar should be spared major shockwaves, he suggested.

Longer term, however, the economic impact of a Boris Johnson prime ministership/no-deal Brexit could be grim - if some predictions prove to be accurate.

Last week, the UK Office for Budget Responsibility - an independent body - said a no-deal Brexit would plunge Britain into a recession, with the economy shrinking 2 per cent in a year.

 

 

 

 

FREE MOVEMENT

Johnson has supported the idea of free movement between Australia and Britain since his days as Mayor of London, and more recently mooted the idea of free movement between the "Anglosphere" countries of the Canada, Australia, New Zealand and UK [CANZUK].

Speaking at the release of the Seely report into post-Brexit Britain earlier this year, Johnson endorsed the call for freer movement between Australia and the UK.

"These are nations that are very similar in many ways - we share very, very similar interests and a uniquely shared set of values," he said at the time.

"The idea of CANZUK having tighter relations is not completely fanciful," says David McCredie. But while the UK's immigration 2018 white paper suggested a "more open attitude" to attracting global talent, he said, an immigration policy that was seen to favour the CANZUK allies "would be a difficult conversation for an incoming prime minister to sell".

 

 

 

 

REGIONAL SECURITY

As Foreign Minister, Johnson revealed that the UK would open diplomatic postings in Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu in response to increasing concerns over stability in the Asia/Pacific region.

He also promised that two new British aircraft carriers would be sent on a "freedom of navigation" tour through the Straits of Malacca and South China Sea after they become operational. (The first such ship comes into service in 2020.)

It's all part of a suite of policies that Johnson has dubbed "Global Britain".

"After [Brexit], Global Britain will remain outward facing, open for business and champion of the rules-based international order," Johnson told the CHOGM meeting in London last year.

It's a position that Australia will welcome, having previously asked the UK to increase its aid spending in the Pacific, to help counter the rising influence of China.

 

Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson got stuck on a zip-line during BT London Live in Victoria Park on August 01, 2012 in London. Picture: Getty
Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson got stuck on a zip-line during BT London Live in Victoria Park on August 01, 2012 in London. Picture: Getty


STINKY DEAL: Residents fury over sewer system ownership

premium_icon STINKY DEAL: Residents fury over sewer system ownership

TENSIONS are spilling over at the seaside village of Seventeen Seventy where...

Motorist drank carton of beer, 3 bottles of wine before driving

premium_icon Motorist drank carton of beer, 3 bottles of wine before...

A GLADSTONE man drunk a carton of beer and three bottles of wine the night before...

Taking the right STEPS for the future

premium_icon Taking the right STEPS for the future

As OPs are released today, students are reminded there are many paths to following...