Commonwealth citizens should have UK visas fast-tracked to send out an “important message” after Brexit, 45 Conservative MPs tell the Home Secretary today.
In a letter to Amber Rudd, the MPs urge the Government to “extend the hand of friendship to our Commonwealth partners” and make the UK more welcoming for Commonwealth citizens.
The MPs suggest that visa rules be fast-tracked for visitors from the 52 Commonwealth countries, while signs at the border should be changed to specifically welcome Commonwealth visitors.
“Visas are a constant source of antagonism for Commonwealth countries. If the Government is going to turbo-charge its relationship with the Commonwealth when it becomes chair of the Commonwealth next year, it will have to take into consideration visas, as well as making it easier for students to come and study in this country as part of the rebuilding of relationships with the Commonwealth post-Brexit.”
the MPs say: “In the previous century, Commonwealth countries stood with Britain as we faced existential threats from abroad but as we pivoted to Europe, increasingly, our Commonwealth allies were left in the cold.
“The lack of consideration for Commonwealth citizens is at its starkest at our border. In 2015, the last year for which figures are readily available, from Australia, Canada and India alone, Britain welcomed 2.2 million visitors who spent over £2 billion.
“These three Commonwealth states are consistently found among the top five non-EEA nationalities arriving in the UK and travel for both business and pleasure.
“However, while EU citizens are collecting their luggage or exchanging greetings with loved ones, our Commonwealth friends wait tirelessly in the ‘all other passports’ queue.”
They point out that the Commonwealth, which includes five G20 countries, “offers a ready-made, English language trading network for Britain.