Brexit debacle – House of Commons rules out another “same in substance” vote

Theresa May and her Government have had another setback in trying to make progress on Brexit, with another vote in Parliament ruled out unless there is “demonstrable change”.

May should know that repeating the same mistake is not a good idea, but House of Commons Speaker John Bercow says she can’t even do that.

Politico: Parliament speaker rules out third vote on ‘same’ Brexit deal

Theresa May’s government cannot hold a third vote on its Brexit deal without securing a “demonstrable change” agreed with the EU, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled, throwing the government’s plans into further chaos.

In a surprise announcement that took both ministers and MPs by surprise, Bercow said that according to parliamentary conventions dating as far back as 1604, the government could not hold repeated votes in the House of Commons on a motion that was the “same in substance.”

fter her deal was heavily voted down in both January and then again last week, May had kept the option open of bringing it back the House of Commons for a third time before this week’s European Council summit where, in the absence of a ratified deal, she will request a potentially lengthy extension to the Article 50 negotiating period, delaying Brexit and forcing the U.K. to participate in upcoming European elections.

Ministers had said that a third vote would only be attempted this week if the government was confident it could win.

After previous heavy defeats it’s hard to see how they could be confident of anything.

Bercow’s ruling appears to have buried any prospect of a vote this week altogether.

As speaker, Bercow’s interpretations of House of Commons conventions are essentially binding unless and until the Commons votes as a majority to break with an established convention.

It is also possible that the government could in theory bring back largely the same deal, but with additional side agreements with the EU, or potentially changes to the non-binding political declaration on the future relationship. Bercow said he would “have to look at the particulars” of any such changes to rule whether they were “in order.”

“I do think a demonstrable change to the proposition would be required,” he said, when asked by Labour MP Hilary Benn whether a new vote would require changes agreed with the EU. “For example, simply a change in an opinion about something wouldn’t itself constitute a change in the offer. So I would have to look the particulars.”

May and her Government seem to have no idea how to proceed with Brexit.

Brexit: Theresa May is now looking like another disaster

From Missy:


As reported yesterday Theresa May did a quick trip to Strasbourg to meet with Juncker (other EU Presidents were also in attendance, along with their Brexit team). At the end of the meeting an agreement was made, and this came out in two statements – one a joint statement, and the second a unilateral statement by May.

Theresa May’s statement outlined what the UK’s understanding of the backstop was, that it is temporary and not a permanent solution. May’s statement also says that if the EU fails to come to an agreement to remove the backstop, then the UK would consider that the backstop had become de facto permanent. This means the UK will have the right to take the EU to the joint arbitration mechanism, it does not mean the UK has a unilateral exit mechanism, nor does it provide a fixed time limit – the two things the House of Commons asked May to try and get if she could not get the backstop removed.

The joint instrument is an 18 point statement which clarifies the commitments both sides make to each other, without changing the Withdrawal Agreement. this interprets how the EU and UK would handle the backstop if it ever came into force. This agreement contains legally binding assurances as opposed to being part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and falls short of what some want.

This morning the Brexit supporting MPs were cautious about the agreements reached last night, all saying they wanted time to read, digest, and analyse the agreement, some stating they would wait for the Attorney General’s legal advice on it before making a decision, and many in the ERG saying they will defer a decision until they had spoken to the DUP.

The AG’s advice was published at around 1130 this morning, and states that the agreement does not change anything as the UK could still find itself trapped in the backstop with no way out. The DUP and Brexiteers have rejected the agreement based on the AG’s advice.

What was looking hopeful this morning for Theresa May is now looking like another disaster for her in the Commons, with some MPs saying she cannot stay in position if she loses again and others saying she needs to call a General Election when she loses the vote. The vote is set down for 7.00pm tonight.


Brexit in peril, May facing defeat

It doesn’t seem to really be news that Theresa May faces defeat over Brexit plans.

Reuters: ‘Brexit in peril’ as PM May faces heavy defeat

Brexit could be reversed if lawmakers reject the government’s exit deal, British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday after two major eurosceptic factions in parliament warned that Prime Minister Theresa May was facing a heavy defeat.

Just 19 days before the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, May is scrambling – so far unsuccessfully – to secure last-minute changes to an EU exit treaty before parliament votes on Tuesday on whether to approve the deal.

If she fails, lawmakers are expected to force May to seek a delay to Brexit which some say could see the 2016 decision to leave the bloc reversed. Others argue that, without a delay, Britain faces an economic shock if it leaves without a deal.

“We have an opportunity now to leave on March 29 or shortly thereafter and it’s important we grasp that opportunity because there is wind in the sails of people trying to stop Brexit,” Hunt told the BBC. “We are in very perilous waters.”

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which props up May’s minority government, and Steve Baker, a leading figure in the large eurosceptic faction of her Conservative party, warned “the political situation is grim”.

“An unchanged withdrawal agreement will be defeated firmly by a sizeable proportion of Conservatives and the DUP if it is again presented to the Commons,” they wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

The Sunday Times said May was battling to save her job as aides were considering persuading her to offer to resign in a bid to get the deal approved. The newspaper also said cabinet ministers had spoken about whether to insist she goes as early as this week.

Amid the political chaos, many company chiefs are aghast at London’s handling of Brexit and say it has already damaged Britain’s reputation as Europe’s pre-eminent destination for foreign investment.

The chances of this turning out well for May or the UK looks slim. It’s a mess with no easy or obvious solutions.

 

May-Merkel agreement on Brexit

From Missy on a possible May-Merkel deal on Brexit – if soi thnis could be a breakthrough for Theresa May:


This is a blog post from the Bruges Group, a eurosceptic think tank that was set up by Conservative MPs / Members in 1989, but now has cross party support. In saying that they generally have a good reputation for well researched articles, and some of the information in this blog post does tally loosely with many rumours circulating at the time of the Chequers deal.

http://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/duplicitous-leaders

“There is no doubt about the veracity of this account since documents have been seen.

On Monday July 9th 2018, several leading French, German and Dutch senior managers were called by EU officials to an urgent meeting.

The meeting was said to be private and those present were informed that Prime Minister May and Chancellor Merkel had reached an Agreement over Brexit. Knowledge of this was attained from the actual transcript of the meeting between May and Merkel.

1) The Agreement was couched in a way to ‘appease’ the Brexit voters.

2) The Agreement would enable May to get rid of those people in her party who were against progress and unity in the EU.

3) Both Merkel and May agreed that the likely course of events would be that UK would re-join the EU in full at some time after the next general election.

4) May agreed to keep as many EU laws and institutions as she could despite the current groundswell of ‘anti-EU hysteria’ in Britain (May’s own words, apparently.)

5) Merkel and May agreed that the only realistic future for the UK was within the EU.

The original Agreement draft was completed in May 2018 in Berlin and then sent to the UK Government Cabinet Office marked ‘Secret’.

NB This Agreement draft was authored in the German Chancellor’s private office.

The Cabinet returned the Agreement draft with suggestions, and there was some to-ing and fro-ing during June 5th 2018.

Private calls between the Prime Minister and Chancellor were made.

The Agreement’s final draft came out late in June 2018. The German Chancellor told Prime Minister May that this was a deal she would support, though there would need to be some more small concessions by the UK to keep the EU happy.

The Chancellor and Prime Minister met in Germany. Merkel had this meeting recorded as a ‘private meeting’ though the Prime Minister was probably unaware of that.

The Chancellor had the transcript of that meeting circulated secretly to EU and key German embassies.

Conclusions

Documents make it quite clear that Prime Minister May was negotiating with Germany, not the EU.

The transcript also makes it clear that the Prime Minister intended to keep all this secret from minsters, especially the Brexit group.

She wants to keep as many EU institutions in UK as intact as possible in order to facilitate an easy return to the EU after 2020.

Chancellor Merkel briefed May on tactics to force Cabinet approval.

The Prime Minister and senior civil servants were working with Germany to stop Brexit or water it down to prevent free trade and the ending of freedom of movement, but to keep cash flowing to the EU.

David Davis was kept in the dark while key EU premiers in France, Holland and Ireland were briefed in full.

Key EU heads were actually briefed in full the day before the Cabinet meeting at Chequers.”

At the time of the Chequers agreement release one journalist said a source let slip that May had said that Angela had seen and approved the deal, this was later denied by no. 10, it was also rumoured that the majority of the negotiation by May was being done with Merkel, and generally believed that if Merkel agreed the deal then it would be agreed to by the EU.

Tomorrow is PMQs, we just have to hope a Brexit supporting MP will bring this up. It will be interesting to see what her response is.

Conservative and Labour MPs resign from parties in UK

Two days ago seven MPs in the UK announced they were resigning from the Labour Party: ‘We have all now resigned’: seven Labour MPs quit party – video

A small group of MPs have resigned from the Labour party in order to sit as an independent group in parliament. The MPs delivered an attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and the party for being ‘institutionally racist’ and betraying its members over Brexit

More from the Guardian – Labour: Watson tells Corbyn he must change direction to stop party splitting

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has told Jeremy Corbyn that he must change direction or face a worsening Labour split after seven MPs quit to form a new movement in the party’s biggest schism in nearly 40 years.

Watson’s emotional intervention came as a number of Labour MPs were poised to follow the founders of the new Independent Group – and after reports on Monday night that some Conservatives were also ready to defect.

Saying that he sometimes “no longer recognises” his own party, Watson urged Corbyn to ensure Labour remains a broad church and reshuffle his shadow cabinet to reflect a wider balance of MPs.

The announcement of the group founded by Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna represented the most significant challenge to party unity since the “gang of four” senior figures quit to form the Social Democratic party in 1981.

But on a day of drama, recrimination and occasional chaos, Corbyn loyalists derided the MPs as fringe figures who were out of touch with the public.

Now another Labour MP has split from Labour, and also three Conservative MPs have joined them. Missy comments:

This morning three Conservative MPs resigned from the party to join the new Independent Group of MPs. It will be interesting as to how these MPs work together, essentially the only thing they all have in common is that they want to stop Brexit, and want the public to have a second referendum now we know more about Brexit, and have seen how things have changed.

Interestingly they don’t want their constituents to have a second vote now things have changed and they are no longer in their party, many vote for party regardless of the candidate, however, these MPs who want to give the electorate the opportunity to change their minds on Brexit aren’t so keen to give their constituents the opportunity to change their minds on their MP.

Guardian:  Eighth Labour MP quits party to join breakaway Independent Group

Joan Ryan has become the eighth Labour MP to resign and join the breakaway Independent Group, claiming Jeremy Corbyn’s party has become “infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism”.

Ryan, the MP for Enfield North, said she had been a member for four decades but could no longer remain as a Labour MP.

Echoing Luciana Berger, the Jewish MP for Liverpool Wavertree, Ryan blamed what she claimed was the Labour leadership’s “dereliction of duty” in the face of the “evil” of antisemitism, for her decision to resign.

In a stinging resignation letter, she said: “I cannot remain a member of the Labour party while this requires me to suggest that I believe Jeremy Corbyn – a man who has presided over the culture of anti-Jewish racism and hatred of Israel that now afflicts my former party – is fit to be prime minister of this country. He is not.”

BBC:  Three MPs quit Tory party to join Independent Group

Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen wrote a joint letter to Theresa May to confirm their departure.

The three held a press conference, criticising the government for letting the “hard-line anti-EU awkward squad” take over the party.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Ms Soubry criticised Theresa May for being “in the grip” of the Democratic Unionist Party and the pro-Leave European Research Group, and allowing Brexit to “define and shape” the Conservative Party.

She said: “The battle is over, the other side has won.

“The right wing, the hard-line anti-EU awkward squad that have destroyed every leader for the last 40 years are now running the Conservative Party from top to toe. They are the Conservative Party.”

The pro-Remain trio will join the new Independent Group – made up of eight Labour MPs who resigned from their party over its handling of Brexit and anti-Semitism – saying it represented “the centre ground of British politics”.

The PM said she was “saddened”, but her party would “always offer… decent, moderate and patriotic politics”.

Brexit continues to split parties in the UK.

“Brexit is all coming down to Ireland” and “We are at the very beginning of a national rage”

Commentary from The Guardian after Donald Tusk’s attention seeking comment – A special place in hell? Donald Tusk didn’t go far enough

Martin Kettle: “Brexit is all coming down to Ireland”

Not only were the Brexiters clueless: they didn’t give a stuff about Ireland. But this will come back to haunt the Tories

Donald Tusk should be criticised not for his malice, but his moderation. The European council president triggered a tsunami of confected outrage from leavers today when he observed, with some justice, that there should be a special place in hell for those who promoted Brexit without a plan. But he should have said far more. He should have added that, within that special place, there should be an executive suite of sleepless torment for those politicians who promoted Brexit without ever giving a stuff about Ireland.

Once again, Brexit is all coming down to Ireland. This was always going to happen, and rightly so. Time after time in our history, Ireland emerges as an awkward reality check that shames the fantasies of those who think the British are better and that Ireland can be ignored. So there is something both fateful and tragic about the fact Theresa May should have prepared for the final showdown by having to make a rare visit to Ireland.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. For the Brexiters, the leaving of Europe was never about Ireland at all. Brexit was about sovereignty, about greatness, or about not liking too many foreigners living here. It was about throwing off the yoke of Brussels and bringing back blue passports. Ireland barely got a look-in during the debates of 2016, save when John Major and Tony Blair pointed out from lifetimes of experience that Brexit would threaten the Northern Ireland peace agreements.

It would be foolish to assume May has no chance of marshalling a narrow Commons majority behind some version of her EU deal next week. But the odds remain long because she wants to do the right thing, more or less, in Ireland. This has always divided the Tory party down the middle, since the era of Robert Peel. And as Peel found out, it was difficult for a great Tory leader, never mind a limited one.

In 1846, Peel came to the House of Commons to propose the repeal of the corn law tariffs on imported grain. Much of his Tory party, which represented landed interests in the areas where British grain was grown, would have nothing to do with his plan. Peel was a pragmatist: he only became a repealer because events demanded it. Those events were the Irish potato blight and famine. The decision to repeal broke the Tory party for a generation.

Peel could, he admitted to MPs, have concealed the seriousness of the situation in Ireland by “rousing the British lion or adhering to the true blue colour”. But the suffering of four million people in Ireland was too serious, and would only increase. Peel read out a series of shocking eyewitness accounts. “It is absolutely necessary,” said Peel, “before you come to a final decision on this question, that you should understand this Irish case. You must do so.”

It was a speech his critics could have dismissed, if the phrase had been in currency, as “project fear”. It was, in fact, project national interest. Some time next week, May is going to face a similar challenge. Britain in 2019 is not Britain in 1846. The issues faced by Peel and May are very different. But Conservative MPs still face the same question – the need to understand the Irish case.

The Rationalist: “We are at the very beginning of a national rage”. “This is the fault of a political system which for too long we have assumed is functional, when it is transparently not.”

This problem can be resolved in any of the following ways: the DUP (and large parts of the Tory party) accept the backstop and the UK effectively remains in the EU without representation; Ireland leaves the EU and unifies with the UK; Ireland unifies with Northern Ireland; the UK leaves without a deal and therefore has political responsibility for the hard border and the ensuing return to inevitable criminality and violence; or finally, the UK remains in the EU.

None of these outcomes were presented in any form at all as consequences (far less objectives) during the 2016 referendum.

There are no other solutions. Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement was the only Brexit that was ever possible without destabilising Ireland’s peace process, which as the phrase insists, is a process which needs nurture, not a fact of life which is irrevocable.

The original ‘’negotiation’ and the present ‘renegotiation’ have been just noise, posturing, theatre and playing for time. It demeans us if we take it seriously and arouses nothing but disgust and contempt if we do not. It has allowed callow politicians like Javid and Hunt to take up ‘positions’ which they consider will advance their own careers and in which they have no conviction. It has nothing whatsoever to do with serious policy that prioritises national and global emergencies.

What Tusk is pointing out here, and what Martin Kettle obviously understands but doesn’t emphasise, is that these were ALWAYS the only solutions. Tusk’s objections (and he has made them colourfully so they will be heard) are that these were not compulsorily stated as part of a post-Brexit plan. People did not know what they were voting about, and whether it was at all achievable. Therefore, oddly enough, Donald Tusk is making a constitutional and procedural point.

Although people like Leadsom and Farage are indeed ‘confecting outrage’, as if they are personally offended by all this, the real critique is of the British constitution, which has allowed a party political infight to become a national crisis. Tusk is therefore looking to the future, in which, after Brexit, when the UK will be diminished (whatever happens next, it already has been) we must have a debate about our constitution and change it, so that decisions of national significance are not ever taken or resolved again without proper debate along established legal pathways.

Pandora’s box has been opened. There are now no answers to this national crisis that will resolve the fury that will be unleashed when a proportion of the population senses ‘betrayal’.

We are at the very beginning of a national rage.

We can personalise this, and blame Cameron, but he did it because he could and because he thought it the best way out of a difficult problem of party management. He is a trivial man, entitled, arrogant and entirely lacking statecraft, but so are many world leaders, not least the American President. The key is to assume that they WILL do damage in pursuit of partisan interest if they are allowed – and then to limit their capacity to do so.

Whoever ‘wins’ the current conflict, we (the body politic) have managed to create a situation where politics for many years hence will be defined by betrayal, bitterness, anger and resentment. Public figures are already positioning themselves to point fingers and locate blame as if the whole thing can be localised to an individual or group and, even worse, that locating blame resolves anything.

This is the fault of a political system which for too long we have assumed is functional, when it is transparently not.

JulesKahnBrown:

Donald Tusk has been calling on the UK government to engage on the Irish border since Article 50 was triggered, but they ignored him till the eleventh hour and have offered nothing but chaotic brinkmanship. As you say, it was always going to come down to this. The EU and Ireland have had a solid plan for it from the word go. Britain had nothing, and the architects of that nothing deserve, at the very least, the venting of Tusk’s understandable frustration.

The UK has far more than Brexit to resolve, and it looks a long way from doing it..

Tusk: Brexiters without a plan deserve a special place in hell…

…may be a bit over the top but Donald Tusk does have a point. It was madness to have a binding vote on Brexit without having any clear plan of how it could happen. And madness to call an election to get a mandate. And mostly a mad mess since.

 

This won’t be encouraging for Theresa May and her Government, but apart from the strong language this European condemnation is not a surprise.

BBC – Brexit: Donald Tusk’s planned outburst

They weren’t off-the-cuff remarks, but a planned outburst.

The softly-spoken politician who holds the authority of all EU countries has just completely condemned a chunk of the British cabinet, wondering aloud: “What that special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely”.

Sure, for a long time the EU has been frustrated with how the UK has approached all of this.

And sure, plenty of voters in the UK are annoyed too at how politicians have been handling these negotiations.

But it is quite something for Donald Tusk to have gone in like this, studs up, even though he sometimes reminisces about his time as a football hooligan in his youth.

Be clear, he was not intending to talk about voters who wanted to Leave, but politicians who were involved in the campaign.

He also had pretty stern remarks for those who’d been on the other side of the argument, accusing those who still want the UK to stay in the EU of having “no political force, and no effective leadership”.

But if you strip away the planned flash of temper, also in his remarks was an invitation to the prime minister to come forward with a different version of the backstop – a “believable guarantee”, a promise that a “common solution is possible”.

That is, on the face of it, in tone at least, more of an opening to the UK to put something new on the table than we have seen from the EU side.

It seems an odd way of encouraging a new approach, but at least it attracted attention.

Guardian: Brexiters hit back at Tusk after he says they deserve ‘special place in hell’ for failing to have a plan

One thing seems clear – Brexit has become a hell of a mess for May and the UK.

May’s trade assurances to Ardern cannot be taken seriously

Jacinda Ardern has just visited Theresa May in London, and statements and assurances were made, but according to Hamish Rutherford these cannot be taken seriously.

Given that May cannot give her own country assurances over the outcome of Brexit and what that will mean for their trade agreements I think he is right.

Stuff:  Ardern seeks assurances on Brexit as Britain prepares for chaos

When Jacinda Ardern’s visit to Europe was officially announced last week, the prime minister’s office surely knew it was setting impossible expectations.

Although it appears the main purpose of the trip is to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, the visit also included an awkwardly timed visit to London.

Very awkwardly timed – the UK is facing a crisis over being unable to agree on how they will leave the European Union.

Ardern’s meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May was a chance to “reconfirm the understanding that New Zealand will be left no worse off, including in respect of its trade interests” following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

If only it were that simple.

Surely, if the British prime minister does not know the terms under which her country will leave the world’s largest trading bloc, then her assurances of how things will look for Britain’s other trading partners cannot be taken seriously.

Being prepared for dealing with post-Brexit Britain is worth doing, but all we really got yesterday were photo ops and pointless platitudes after a one hour meeting between Ardern and May.

Ardern in the UK

Jacinda Ardern has had a number of meetings on her visit to London, in particular with Theresa May but also tickling the celebrity coverage with a ‘secret’ meeting with Princess Megan.

Ardern’s official release:  NZ UK trade relations advanced in Prime Ministers’ meeting

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May have advanced trade and a range of other issues during a one hour meeting held in London today.

The key areas of discussion were a mutual commitment to the rules-based international system and the future of the trading relationship between New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

“We very much value our relationship with the UK. It is our longest-standing relationship, and still one of our closest,” Jacinda Ardern said.

There has been cooperation on some things, but the UK dumped New Zealand in preference of the European Union on trade in the 1970s, and is looking at repairing that with their exit from the EU.

“The clear message we imparted to Prime Minister May today was, whatever the outcome of the Brexit process, we will have an enduring relationship with the UK across trade and the full range of interactions our two countries share.

Another clear message is that until Brexit is sorted closer trade talks can only be talked about as future possibilities.

“The constant movement of people between our countries, the vitality of investment and business interests between us, and the significant links between our citizens and governments demonstrate the ties between our populations, making us natural partners in a post-Brexit environment.

“Our shared values allow us to work together to address global challenges such as the urgency of addressing climate change and defending the international rules-based system from those who would undermine it.

“New Zealand appreciates the close cooperation we have with the UK on defence and security matters.”

Jacinda Ardern confirmed she has spoken to PM May about New Zealand’s interests that will be affected by Brexit, the priority placed on continuity and stability, and New Zealand not being left worse off as a result.

“Both sides welcomed the signing today of the Veterinary Agreement and Mutual Recognition Agreement on Conformity Assessment Bodies. These will assist in ensuring trade continues to flow freely between our countries, once the UK has left the EU

“These agreements mean current trade-facilitating arrangements covering the export of products into the EU are maintained with the UK.

“They help to ensure New Zealand exporters will not be worse off in the immediate aftermath of Brexit and there will be a continuity of the existing rules. This is a very important arrangement for our exporters.”

The Prime Ministers also reaffirmed the commitment of New Zealand and the UK to launch negotiations on a free trade agreement when the UK is in a position to do so.

“The FTA will be a high quality, comprehensive and progressive agreement that delivers for all of our citizens, contributes to addressing global and regional issues of concern, such as environmental issues and labour standards, and supports sustainable and inclusive economic development.”

New Zealand also welcomed the UK’s interest in acceding to the CPTPP.

“New Zealand supports the expansion of CPTPP to parties willing and able to meet the high standards of the agreement.”

The Prime Ministers also discussed the importance of immigration policies that facilitate the flow of skilled migration.

“New Zealanders continue to contribute to the UK economy and we welcome large numbers of UK citizens to New Zealand, including on our popular working holiday scheme. I welcomed the recent announcement that New Zealand citizens will soon be able to use e-gates in the UK.

“We also discussed a range of domestic priorities where both countries will benefit from learning from each other’s experiences, including through better regulation.

“Today’s meeting was very warm. It was proof of the depth, breadth and longevity of our countries’ relationship and the ongoing importance of our shared history and friendship to both countries’ success in a post-Brexit environment,” Jacinda Ardern said.

 

Tricky time for Ardern for trade talks in Europe

In the UK Brexit is in disarray, and this mess will cause difficulties working out future trade alliances there and in Europe. But all this up in the air Jacinda Ardern is going to try.

RNZ: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern heading to Europe with a focus on trade

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern heads to London this weekend where she’s expected to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the wake of her surviving a no-confidence vote.

While there Ms Ardern will push for certainty that New Zealand will be left no worse off in respect of trade following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union (EU).

I doubt that trade with New Zealand will be much of a priority for May or for the UK right now. They don’t know what they are doing for themselves let alone what they might be able to do with countries on the other side of the world.

She will then head to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, along with the Finance Minister Grant Robertson, where the focus will be progressing a free trade agreement with Europe.

The prime minister will then head to Brussels for high-level meetings.

“My visit to the UK is an opportunity to underline New Zealand’s position as a natural and long-standing partner for the country as it redefines its global role post-Brexit,” Ms Ardern said.

What ‘post-Brexit’ will look like is anyone’s guess right now.

“I will be using my engagements to enhance New Zealand’s profile as a likeminded partner to the EU across a wide range of issues, including climate change, social policy, trade and our commitment to the rules-based system,” she said.

“There is still much progress to make in trade talks with our European partners, so a key focus of this whole trip is to speak to European Commission and individual country leaders to shore up support for our ongoing negotiations and ensure New Zealand exporters achieve a great deal.”

Ardern is probably on the mark saying “There is still much progress to make in trade talks with our European partners”.

She has too make the most of her trip to London and Europe, but it is going to be difficult making much progress on trade deals.

Unless Ardern can sort out Brexit for May and the EU while she is there.