People wait in the rain as Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers a speech at a rally.
People wait in the rain as Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers a speech at a rally. AAP Image/NEWZULU/Kyle Ablett

This is the night that could change your life

THE UK election may be taking place half a world away, but the vote could have huge ramifications for Australia.

Our travel plans, work, personal finances, national economy, business opportunities and our political landscape are all likely to be affected.

Prime Minister Theresa May called the snap election with the hopes of securing a strong win for the Conservatives to give her a mandate for a "hard Brexit". Now that's looking less likely, and a Labour victory or even a less than decisive win for the Tories could mean all the difference for the UK, the EU and Australia.

Britain goes to the polls at 4pm. Here's why the vote matters for you.

Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May AAP


The first signal of the election's effects will come from the markets. If there is a significant Conservative majority, the pound will bounce back and the international stock market will gain in confidence.

But if the Tories only scrape through with a small majority, less than 50 seats for example, we'll see uncertainty and instability. Since Mrs May called an early election to cement her position, a close result will trigger whisperings in the UK government and her own party, making everything harder to achieve.


Labour Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn AAP

Britain's stock market could take a hit, and Australian investors may draw back, meaning major consequences for consumers, workers, students, travellers and retirees.

"There's a lot of interplay between Britain and Australia," Simon Tormey, head of the University of Sydney's School of Social and Political Sciences, told "It's important at a personal and business level.

"I'm transferring my pension to Australia right now, so the exchange rate is important to me. Australia loves exporting to the UK and vice versa ... there's a lot at stake."


Britain's presence in the EU and single market makes life much easier for Australia. The Anglosphere country is a valuable ally in negotiations and Aussies don't require multiple visas to travel in Europe.

Both Mrs May and her main rival, Jeremy Corbyn, support a Brexit, so that hasn't been the key issue of the election. But the two leaders have different ideas on how it should work.

The Conservatives' "hard Brexit" would be tougher on Australia, so if they lose or win by a slim majority, they could be pressured into a Labour-style "soft Brexit" that focuses on workers' rights, movement and trade.

"Australians don't want a Brexit, but if it happens we would prefer the UK was closely tied with the EU," said Professor Tormey.


Many Australian companies have European headquarters in the UK, but that could change if it stops being a central springboard to the EU. Aussies who go to work there may be looking at brushing up on their language skills.

An unconvincing result for the Tories will mean a "fraught two years" for the British government and it will find it "difficult to do much else", warns Andrew Walter, interim head of the University of Melbourne's School of Government.

"There will be no unilateral agreements with Australia and others until Brexit is achieved."

But he told there could be opportunities for negotiation if Australia strikes while the iron is hot.

"The UK government needs some early wins on the board.

The 'global Britain' myth hands some power to Australia."


Mrs May has repeatedly promised (and failed) to bring net immigration down, as home secretary and now PM.

Labour said it will accept the need for some reduction, but does not want to threaten key sectors, including the NHS, that are reliant on foreign workers.

Sectors that have seen a high number of employees flock to work for them, such as finance, will be concerned over the loss of the single passport and will try to capitalise on a weakened Conservative party.

"The City of London is going to be pushing for a better deal and avoiding a hard Brexit, access to key staff and open labour movement," said Professor Walter.

There are many Australian students at UK universities who currently benefit from reasonably liberal work visa arrangements after graduation.

A strong Conservative win may mean a clamp down on the relative freedom of movement for almost all countries.


Finally, the election will affect our own politics. If Mr Corbyn does well, Australia may have to recognise that the world is moving away from the "neo-liberal" free trade the UK has championed.

The polls are suggesting Malcolm Turnbull's slim majority may be reflected in Mrs May's own disappointment.

In a time of upheaval, anti-establishment shocks and uncertainty, Australia will need to think hard about who it chooses for its allies and where it wants to be in the world. "Trump also signals a sharp reversal on that front," said Prof Walter.

There are opportunities in the Asia Pacific and work is taking place on negotiations between Australia the EU.

After a promising economic result this week, Australia is in a position to capitalise on its power and ensure it benefits whatever happens tonight.

That goes for all of us as individuals, too.

News Corp Australia

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