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.

 

Ardern competing with Brexit mess in trade talks with UK, EU

Jacinda Ardern is in the UK to have trade talks with Theresa May, but with the turmoil over Brexit there is probably not much that can be achieved at this stage.

NZ Herald:  PM Jacinda Ardern to meet Theresa May during time of Brexit tumult

When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets her embattled British counterpart Theresa May tonight (NZT) she will be hoping the latter will not be too distracted by the Brexit turmoil in her own country to discuss trade.

Ardern, who is in the UK for a brief visit before heading to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has put trade at the top of her agenda, saying free-trade agreements with both Britain and the European Union are priorities.

But trade agreements are unlikely to be priorities for the UK or EU at the moment.

Ardern will be seeking a reassurance from May that New Zealand will be no worse off, including in trade, following Britain’s departure from the European Union.

May will be much more concerned about how ;worse off’ the UK may be if she doesn’t sort out her Brexit mess – or if she does sort it out.

“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,” Ardern said in a statement last week.

That ignores the fact that the UK dumped New Zealand “as a natural and long-standing partner” in the 1970sw as they turned to Europe and the EU.

While May will hear Ardern’s reminder that New Zealand is high on the list of countries Britain wants to negotiate free trade agreements with, it likely won’t be high on her list of short-term priorities.

Before Britain is in any position to negotiate free trade agreements, the House of Commons must first agree on a way forward or face a so-called “hard Brexit” on March 29 – that is leaving the European Union with no plan.

Ardern is at Davos for two days before heading to Brussels for meetings with European Council and Commission leaders.

Where she will also probably struggle to make much trade headway.

Some nice things will probably be said after both the UK and EU meetings, but it is unlikely much of substance will come out of either at this time.

 

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.

May loses Brexit vote badly, now faces no confidence vote

As expected the Withdrawal Vote (Brexit plan) was defeated in the UK parliament, the only surprise being how badly the loss was:

  • Ayes 202
  • Noes 432

That’s the worst defeat by a Government in Britain in 95 years. In normal times that degree of humiliation would result in a rapid resignation by the Prime Minister, but these are not normal times. Theresa May is hanging on defiantly.

Soon after the loss Jeremy Corbyn and party leaders tabled a vote of no confidence:

This will be debated and probably voted Wednesday in the UK (Thursday NZ time). It is predicted that May may survive this, but her Government and the Brexit plan (or lack of) are both in tatters.

Telegraph:

Theresa May’s future rests in the balance after Jeremy Corbyn tabled a no-confidence motion on Tuesday night, just minutes after the Government suffered an unprecedented defeat over its Brexit deal.

With MPs voting by 432 to 202 to reject the draft withdrawal agreement, Mr Corbyn raised a point of order requesting that a vote be held on Wednesday,  after Prime Minister’s Questions.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Corbyn highlighted that the defeat was the largest inflicted on any Government since the 1920s, adding that Mrs May had “lost the confidence of this House and this country.”

We may find out by morning, NZ time.

Morning update from BBC:

  • Government faces vote of no confidence after PM’s huge parliamentary defeat on Tuesday
  • The Commons rejected Mrs May’s EU withdrawal agreement by 432 votes to 202
  • MPs now debating Labour’s no confidence motion ahead of vote at 19:00 GMT
  • Government expected to survive, with DUP and Tory Brexiteers backing PM
  • Labour says further no-confidence votes could follow if this one fails
  • European leaders have reacted with dismay at the voting down of the deal

Guardian – Brexit: MPs debate no-confidence motion after May’s deal defeat

MPs should be given indicative votes on what happens next, says Brexit committee

Next move ‘has to come from London,’ says EU

It isn’t just the Conservatives who are divided.

John Woodcock, who was an elected as a Labour MP but who now sits as an independent after leaving the party because of his opposition to Jeremy Corbyn, has told the Commons that he will not be voting for the motion of no confidence in the government this evening. He said he thought Corbyn and John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, were not fit to hold high office.

Here is the full transcript of what Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, told the European parliament this morning about the Commons Brexit vote. He said “the risk of a no deal has never been so high.”

Withdrawal Vote expected in UK today

The vote in the UK parliament on the Withdrawal Agreement, which is crucial for Brexit, is expected this morning New Zealand time (after 7 pm Tuesday evening UK time).

Missy reports:


The vote on the Withdrawal Agreement will take place sometime after 7.00pm local time.

Yesterday the PM presented to Parliament letters from Donald Tusk and Jean Claude Juncker stating that the intent is that the Irish Backstop is not meant to be permanent. This has not appeased those against the agreement as it is not a legal document but rather a political assurance, meaning that if there is a dispute the letters will not hold up in court.

Some of the MPs that will be voting against the agreement believe that the EU will come back to the UK with last minute concessions to the agreement. They point to precedents set by the EU where they have agreed to concessions in international agreements at the last minute making way for the agreements to be passed. The most recent example being the Canadian FTA where they agreed the day before Canada was due to walk away.

The EU do respond to brinksmanship, that the UK Government and Remain MPs are not willing to do that is cowardice. They have been brainwashed by the fear mongering, most of which has been debunked.

It will be interesting to note Ireland’s reaction to a vote against the deal, so far they have played the brinksmanship game the best. Ireland have told the EU they will need millions in bailouts and aid in the event of a no deal Brexit, that Ireland have been the most stubborn on the backstop has meant they have garnered very little sympathy in Britain. However, it is possible that if the deal is voted down and a no deal looks more likely then Varadkar would be more inclined to compromise. The next election for Ireland is in 2021, so two years after Brexit, if Varadkar is any sort of politician he will be looking to that as any downturn in the wake of a no deal Brexit may harm him if he is seen as the cause of it.

One of the biggest mistakes that May made was postponing the vote on the deal. If she had held the vote last December and it had failed by a very large margin then she could have used that as leverage to try and get the EU to agree to concessions.

By postponing the debate she has led to the problems of MPs trying to usurp her – and the Government’s – authority on Brexit.

 

Brexit vote imminent, no win situation for May and UK

No matter what the outcome of the crucial Brexit vote in the UK Parliament this week the outcome may be bad.

There is the potential for financial catastrophe if the deal passes, and the complete decay of democracy if it fails. The country voted in favour of Brexit in a referendum and democracy-wise Parliament has a duty to act on that majority decision.

 

Missy:


Tomorrow is the ‘meaningful vote’ on the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

It is getting a little complex with machinations of some of the MPs trying desperately to stop Brexit. A group of MPs are reportedly going to use the Parliamentary Liaison Committee, (a committee of the chairs of all 32 select committees), to take power away from the Executive to manage Brexit. I am not sure if this is possible and haven’t had a chance to read up on the Standing Orders around this, but it is being described as a coup by some.

A Government whip has resigned in order to vote against the Government on the deal, and it is reported that at least 112 Government MPs have declared they will vote against the agreement.

Jeremy Corbyn has said that if the Government is defeated he will be calling a vote of No Confidence in the Government. Conservative MPs have been told if they vote against the Government in a Confidence vote they will have the whip withdrawn and be kicked out of the party. The DUP have previously stated that they will vote with the Government on a Confidence vote if it is called in the event of the withdrawal agreement being voted down. In theory the Government should win a vote of No Confidence in these circumstances.

If the agreement passes it has been suggested the DUP will call a vote of No Confidence in the Government in which they are likely to either vote against the Government or abstain. This will no doubt depend on Labour and how confident they are going into a General Election knowing that there is a deal they voted against already agreed. If they want to bring down the Government at any cost then the DUP will either hold their nose to vote with them, or most likely abstain, (since they have said they will never vote with Labour on matters of Confidence, and would abstain first). This also will depend on the Greens and Lib Dems, and what chance they think they have of stopping Brexit altogether.

In the event of a General Election Article 50 can be delayed until after the election.


In response to Facing loss on Brexit vote May warns of catastrophic failure:

Higher likelihood of catastrophe if the agreement is passed than not, higher likelihood of complete decay of democracy in the UK if the agreement is not passed.

It is a no win situation, May has botched this completely and put herself, and worse her Government, in a tenuous position.

Alan Wilkinson:

Surely it is impossible for her Brexit to pass? Everyone hates it. She seems to have stacked her Cabinet with Remainers and failed to get them on board anything approaching a saleable Brexit. Every move she has made seems to have weakened her position.

It is seemingly impossible for it to pass, but there are some unknowns in the mix.

1. numbers on the Conservative benches are based on rumour and estimates, and to be honest the media have been shocking at reading how some of the MPs will vote.

2. No one is sure how the Lib Dems and Greens will vote.

3. Despite Labour saying they will vote against the deal there may be some that are anti Corbyn and will vote for it in the hopes it will prevent a Confidence vote and GE. There are only about half a dozen Labour MPs for sure that will vote against the deal.

4. No-one is sure what the Tory rebels will do. They may vote for the deal as a least worst option, or they may try to go for the nuclear option and vote against to try and force Article 50 be cancelled.

Facing loss on Brexit vote May warns of catastrophic failure

Prime Minister Theresa May is stil trying to get enough support for a key vote in Parliament next week. She has warned that failure to support her Brexit deal could be catastrophic for Britain.

Reuters:  May warns of catastrophe if lawmakers don’t back Brexit deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May has warned lawmakers that failure to back her plan to leave the European Union would be catastrophic for Britain, in a plea for support two days ahead of a vote in parliament that she is expected to lose.

Lawmakers are set to vote on May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday, after she shelved plans for a vote in December when it became clear that not enough lawmakers from her own party or others would back the deal she agreed with Brussels.

May looks little closer to securing the support she needs, but writing in the Sunday Express she said lawmakers must not let down the people who voted for Brexit.

“Doing so would be a catastrophic and unforgivable breach of trust in our democracy,” May said.

“So my message to Parliament this weekend is simple: it is time to forget the games and do what is right for our country.”

Catastrophe shouldn’t be ruled out if the Brexit deal is passed by Parliament either.

May’s UK play in disarray

Developments with Theresa May and Brexit suggest a growing degree  of disarray in the UK.

RNZ: British PM Theresa May pulls vote on Brexit deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May has postponed a crucial parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal because she said it “would be rejected by a significant margin”.

She said MPs backed much of the deal she has struck with the EU but there was concern over the Northern Ireland backstop plan.

Mrs May said she believed she could still get the deal through if she addressed MPs’ concerns and that what she intended to do in the next few days.

However, Speaker John Bercow – who chairs debates in the House of Commons – called on the government to give MPs a vote on whether Tuesday’s vote should be cancelled, saying it was the “right and obvious” thing to do given how angry some MPs were about the cancellation.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the government was in “complete chaos” and urged Mrs May to stand down.

The pound fell sharply in response to the reports earlier of a likely delay.

The deputy leader of the DUP – the Northern Ireland party whose backing Theresa May needs to win key votes – Nigel Dodds, said the situation was “quite frankly a bit of a shambles” and the PM was paying the price for crossing her “red lines” when it came to Northern Ireland.

And it appears to be affecting more than the UK:  Dow slides 500 points on Brexit drama, bank selloff

Brexit chaos and sinking bank stocks are combining to deal the stock market another blow.

The Dow fell 500 points, or 1.9%, on Monday. The index tumbled below the 24,000 level. The S&P 500 retreated 1.7%, while the Nasdaq lost 1%.

US stocks hit session lows after Prime Minister Theresa May said she would delay a crucial vote on her Brexit deal. The British pound extended its losses, plunging 1.6% against the US dollar. Sterling is on track for its worst close since April 2017.

“We seem to have taken a turn for the worse because of the Brexit news,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Capital. “Any news that isn’t good is immediately treated as terrible.”

The Brexit chaos reinforces one of Wall Street’s biggest fears: slowing global growth. Germany and Japan are already in economic contraction, while China’s economy has suffered from a wave of tariffs.

 

 

Ardern ranked 29th ‘most powerful woman’ in 2018

Forbes have ranked New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as the 29th most powerful woman in the world for 2018. While Ardern obviously has significant power in New Zealand her world-wide power is not obvious to me.

And ‘power’ is not necessarily a positive – Theresa May is ranked second. She seems to have the power to make a mess of things in the UK, and this has major implications for Europe in particular.

Forbes: Power Women 2018

Change is rippling through the business, tech, entertainment, philanthropical and political spheres alike. The 2018 World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list celebrates the icons, innovators and instigators who are using their voice to change power structures and create a lasting impact.

This year, the 15th annual list welcomes 20 newcomers, but what’s notable is who’s moved out, up and down, making way for emerging leaders who are redefining the chief seat and bringing others along with them. We see more change ahead.

It isn’t surprising to see Angela Merkel ranked number 1 – but she recently indicated she won’t stand again for leadership in Germany.

I haven’t heard of most women on the list. Here are some:

  1. Angela Merkel (Germany)
  2. Theresa May (UK)
  3. Christine Lagarde (France)
  4. Mary Barra (USA)
  5. Abigail Johnson (USA)
  6. Melinda Gates (USA)
  7. Susan Wojcicki (USA)
  8. Ana Patricia Botín (Spain)
  9. Marillyn Hewson (USA)
  10. Ginni Rometty (USA)

A few further down:

2. Oprah Winfrey (USA)

23 Queen Elizabeth II (UK)

24. Ivanka Trump (USA)

29. Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand)

30. Gina Rinehart(Australia)

The blurb on Ardern:

“New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern continues to be a fresh voice, advocating for families and normalising working parenthood by bringing her daughter and stay-at-home partner to the UN General Assembly”

  • Ardern set new norms as a government leader when she gave birth, took six weeks maternity leave and shared that her partner will be a stay-at-home dad.
  • She said she is using her platform to “create a path for other women” to follow in her footsteps.
  • Rising to power on a tide of “Jacindamania,” at 38, she is the youngest female leader in the world and New Zealand’s youngest PM in 150 years.
  • As leader of the Labour Party, she promises an “empathetic” government, with ambitious plans to tackle climate change and child poverty.
  • In July she announced welfare reforms including a weekly stipend for new parents and an increase in paid parental leave from 18 to 22 weeks.

However Ardern is being criticised in New Zealand for her actions not coming close to living up to her rhetoric.

Helen Clark has been ranked on the list over the years…

  • 2004 – 43rd
  • 2016 – 22nd (most powerful woman in the United Nations)

…but dropped right off it in 2017.

NZ Herald: Jacinda Ardern named among world’s most powerful women

Ardern is one spot higher than Australia’s richest citizen Gina Rinehart, and above some big names such as Beyonce, at number 50, and Taylor Swift, at number 68. Queen Elizabeth is just spots above her at number 23.

Funny that NZH should compare Ardern to celebrities.

Also featured on the list at number 91 is Ana Brnabic, the first female and first openly gay Prime Minister of Serbia, and Zewde Sahle-Work at number 97, the first female president of Ethiopia.

But Serbia (population 7 million) and Ethiopia (population 105 million) are in parts of the world that aren’t so important to a US magazine.