While the United Kingdom exit from the European Union poses major challenges for the UK and for the rest of Europe, it should mainly offer opportunities for New Zealand.
We are trying to do a trade deal with the UK as soon as that is possible (they will be a tad busy at the moment), and also want to make progress on a trade deal with the EU.
Serena Kelly at Stuff looks at Brexit: the past, present and future impact on New Zealand
The past is of interest but it doesn’t matter much now. What we can do now and our future prospects are more important.
So what does Brexit mean for New Zealand and how has New Zealand reacted to developments?
Trade is the most vital interest for New Zealand’s foreign policy. Official statistics show that for the year ending June 2016, the EU was New Zealand’s third largest trading partner (and rising), and the UK our fifth largest export market. Out of our total trade with the EU, UK trade makes up 20 per cent.
The EU’s importance to New Zealand was showcased a few weeks ago when Prime Minister Bill English made his first official trip to Europe. In what was possibly a first for his National party, English visited Brussels before the UK.
During his Brussels visit, the possibility of fast-tracking the EU-NZ FTA was promoted on both sides – in order to signal to the world the importance of trade liberalisation in the face of a global trend towards so-called populism.
Indeed, Trade Minister Todd McLay has indicated that the EU-NZ FTA is likely to be finalised before an UK-NZ FTA. This is understandable – Britain still has at least two years to negotiate its exit from the EU and has yet to be accepted as a member in the World Trade Organisation.
No improved immigration access
Immediately after the referendum, there was hope that New Zealanders would benefit from relaxed immigration laws directed at New Zealanders. Unsurprisingly – given the consensus that Brexit was a vote against unfettered immigration – Prime Minister May recently told Prime Minister English that there would be no change.
Patience may be required.
Theresa May’s letter last month means there is suddenly a probable timetable for Brexit– around 18 months. May’s letter only hints at the phenomenal amount of time and manpower required to extract the United Kingdom from the European Union and to come to an agreement about the future relationship between the EU and UK. This means very limited resources for relationships with third countries such as New Zealand.
New Zealand may be a minor player and a low priority – but the UK could benefit from our extensive experience with doing trade negotiations, compared to their almost complete lack since they have been in the EU.
Getting in early would be a big deal for New Zealand. As far as size of trade goes it would be a small deal for the UK, but they could gain a lot more in other trade if they manage to do something quickly with us.