Peters, UKIP, the Commonwealth and fools

There’s no fool like an old fool whom thinks trading salvation means rejecting the European Union, USA, Japan and China?

This week Winston Peters is in the UK and gave a speech to the House of Lords. It was noted in news reports that Peters spoke about supporting ‘Brexit’ – an exit of Britain from the European Union.

Something I missed – or it wasn’t reported – is that the event that Peters spoke at was hosted by the UK Independence Party’s leader in the House of Lords and UKIP’s Commonwealth spokesperson, and Peters was introduced by UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

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Winston Peters and Nigel Farage

Does Peters want New Zealand to try and wind the clock back to the 1950-60s where our trade  was overwhelmingly reliant on the UK? Until they discarded us and other Commonwealth countries and ex-colonies of the UK and associated themselves more closely with Europe, ending up in a growing European Union.

Peters featured in a UKIP article: Britain can trade around the world post-Brexit

Mr Peters said, “The Commonwealth…  is now a dynamic powerhouse, crossing every time zone and trading session in the world.  It covers nearly 30 million square kilometres, almost a quarter of the World’s land area.  It’s members can be found in every single inhabited continent.  Together, we have a population of over 2.3 billion, nearly a third of the world’s population.  In 2014 the Commonwealth produced GDP of $10.45 trillion, a massive 17% of gross world product.  Seen that way the Commonwealth could be a colossus.”

“It has a diversity of markets the EU can only dream of, from first world economies to emerging markets with huge growth potential.  Part of the choice the UK faces is of a Europe, divided and indebted, or trade in the developed and emerging economies of The Commonwealth.  By 2050 the population of The Commonwealth will have increased by 30%, whilst the EU will have dropped by 2%.  GDP growth in the Eurozone has amounted to just 0.7% in recent years, Commonwealth GDP grew by 5%.”

He made it absolutely clear that a future out of the EU and trading with the world was something to be aspired to, “Anyone who thinks that the economy of the nation that once created the largest empire in history will be suddenly laid to ruin upon leaving the EU is greatly mistaken, or having left will be friendless, doesn’t understand history or realise when push comes to shove how deep Commonwealth bonds are.

He wants a revival of the Commonwealth of Nations (British Commonwealth)?

“A future out of the EU and trading with the world” – the European Union, with or without the UK, comprises a significant proportion of world trade.

One of New Zealand’s biggest trading partners is Australia, also in the Commonwealth. We are currently trying to improve trade with Canada via the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Peters opposes.

There are 53 countries in the Commonwealth, also including:

  • India
  • Pakistan
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • Bangladesh
  • Tuvalu

We are already doing increasing amounts of trade with India and working towards a trade agreement.

But the European is one of the world’s biggest trading blocs, accounting for about 16.5% of the the world’s imports and exports. New Zealand is currently trying to get closer to that – see NZ – EU trade deal takes giant step.

Peters seems to be anti-China, and the other two biggest trading nations, the US and Japan, are part of the TPP that Peters wants to walk away from.

Dreaming of a return to the good old days (before Peters was middle aged) seems out of step with the world of trade in the 21st century.

From Peters’ speech:

“The British people stand on the cusp of an exciting future. It will not be easy to achieve that future.  But if there is one nation that can do it, it is the British”.

Peters wants to severely limit our trading options and bank on a country that turned it’s back on us fifty years ago?

The world is a far bigger place than the 28 EU member states.  Britain forgot that once, at it’s present cost.  Some of us believe that you won’t make that mistake again.

Afterall it was a Briton who centuries ago wrote this call to action:

“There comes a tide in the affairs of men, which if taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”

Grabbing opportunities when they arise is something any Government should look to do, but it hardly makes sense to take a punt on an old world colonist while shunning the biggest trade opportunities currently available.

It was actually William Shakespeare (or whoever penned under that name) who wrote that for the character Brutus talking to Cassius in Julius Caesar.

How far back in time does Peters want us to go? Shakespearian England? The Roman Empire?

‘Yay the Commonwealth, stuff the rest’ may attract a few voters to UKIP and NZ First but as a modern trading strategy it seems nuts.

Anyone can quote some Shakespeare.

“A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

If Peters wants to go back in time perhaps he could consider a proverb:

There’s no fool like an old fool.