As we watch Britain lurch ever more unsteadily towards Brexit, arguing with itself and with the French and German officials at the same time, U.K. officials are already starting to think about the trade negotiations with various Commonwealth nations waiting to be started. Come whatever eventually will on 01 November 2019, there is a British Government official saying that New Zealand has nothing to fear from Brexit and that the United Kingdom wants rapid talks to get underway once the process is done.
That will depend on how well the next several weeks go and what kind of U.K. we have on 01 November 2019. Will it be a U.K. that has some how managed to secure a Brexit deal against the shadow of the infighting, the legal uncertainty and the politicking? Will it be a U.K. now on the cusp of falling to bits as it reckons with a dodgy new post Brexit reality? Or will something nobody has foreseen happen?
On one hand trade deal between the two countries would be great and I suspect conducted on far more friendly terms than an American trade deal – if we ever get one with Washington – is likely to be done. On the other, I cannot help but get the feeling that it will be lost in the hullabaloo that is going increase by orders of magnitude, drowning out rational conversations especially if there looks like being no serious prospect of an exit deal that Britain AND the E.U. can live with.
New Zealand needs to be realistic. As much as we are liked and respected in London, there are plenty of other bigger, more interesting fish for the U.K. to cook, which will compete with New Zealand for the attention of U.K. Trade Secretary Liz Truss. Canada, Australia, India among others are going to be actively seeking out U.K. officials to put a good word in their ears about doing a deal with their countries.
But before any of this happens, we need to know what form of U.K. we are going to wake up to on 02 November New Zealand time. We need to know that they will be in a position to negotiate, which might not be so easy if a no-deal Brexit occurs and they find hard borders springing up around them. And if they can start negotiations, will the terms of reference involve things New Zealand holds dear like Pharmac’s independence, whether there will be changes to visas for New Zealanders with U.K. connections and so forth.
Another question is whether Britain goes to the polls again or not. And after the votes are counted will it still be shades of navy blue of the Conservatives or the bright deep red of Labour, or will the Liberal Democrats have managed to smudge their colours all over the country?
Time will tell.