Petition For Free Movement Gains Momentum

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A petition for free movement among the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand has been launched by the Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organization.

The petition calls for loosening restrictions on visas and work permits among the four Commonwealth countries. Citizens from the four countries would move freely among the four Commonwealth countries, much like the EU Schengen Agreement and Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement between Australia and New Zealand.

The petitioning organization argues that allowing free movement would strengthen economic and cultural ties between the countries.

The four countries all share a head of state (Queen Elizabeth II), a common language, strong political-economic relations, historical-cultural ties, and similar legal systems. “We are virtually the same people,” James Skinner, executive director of the organization, told CBC’s “The Early Edition.”

The petition has garnered more than 60,000 signatures, with recent media coverage in the past couple weeks giving it increased attention. The group plans to present the petition to New Zealand’s and Australia’s parliaments in the immediate future and to the U.K. and Canadian parliaments after upcoming elections in those countries later this year.

However, don’t expect to be freely moving between the four Commonwealth countries anytime soon. Details of such an agreement would be complicated and time consuming to work out. Emily Gilbert, an associate professor who teaches Canadian studies and geography at the University of Toronto told CBC News that “chances are it will be some years in the making if it’s ever realized.”

Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and 49 other countries make up the intergovernmental Commonwealth of Nations, an organization comprised of formal colonial possessions of the British Empire. Member states do not hold legal obligations to one another, but claim to be united by language, history, culture, and shared values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

The free-movement petition does not mention any plans to expand to the rest of the Commonwealth nations other than the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

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