Britain leaps into post E.U. uncertainty; New Zealand hopes for trade deal


At 2300 hours on 31 January 2020, Britain left the European Union. After some 1316 days after the turbulent saga began with that infamous vote on 23 June 2016 the nation of the Union Jack was no longer a member. And whilst the Brexit Party has got what it wanted, plenty of uncertainty awaits the nation that New Zealand will now most probably try to make a trade agreement with, the highest priority.

For the most immediate future though, life goes on in much the same way unless one is one of the British Members of the European Parliament. who now find themselves redundant. The hard border that many were concerned would immediately pop up between Britain and Ireland and its security implications as well as historical implications, will not appear – if at all – until the transition period from being an E.U. member nation is complete.

But make no mistake, for better or for worse the implications of what happened at 2300 hours 31 January 2020 are huge. Millions of people living in the U.K. long term, especially those in minority ethnic groups are probably feeling somewhat uncertain at the moment. The Romanian population in Britain is reporting that it is no longer feeling welcome, just as Bucharest launches a “return home” appeal to those Romanians who reside in Britain.Those such as the Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders who have visa arrangements and whose countries are on good terms with Britain, may have an easier time.

With Britain now out of the E.U., a host of laws will need to be revisited to make sure that they are still fit for purpose. Far from being the most turbulent part of the whole charade, the real turbulence as immigration, trade, environmental and other policy areas come under renewed scrutiny, might actually be still to come.

Amongst all of this, Britain will be looking at the scope for trade deals with other nations. New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and others will be high priorities. So will be resetting their security relations in terms of defence and foreign policy. All of this is something that has not gone unnoticed by the New Zealand Government, with Minister of Trade David Parker hoping to have some sort of trade deal wrapped up with Britain by 2021. Mr Parker will be under pressure to have streamlined access to British markets for New Zealand produce that might have been complicated by E.U. laws prior to 31 January. New Zealanders living in the United Kingdom might be hoping for easier processes in terms of becoming U.K. permanent residents and citizens as well.

For now though, the fallout from Brexit will not really start to be known for a while. The Irish border will remain open, but in the Oireachtas √Čireann, as much as in the House of Commons, no doubt a lot of people will be starting to have some deep conversations in the coming days and weeks about how the border should function. Similarly in Scotland’s Parliament, the Parliamaid na h-Alba, there will be conversations that Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister will be leading about where Scotland goes – it did not vote to leave the E.U., and Ms Sturgeon is promising Scotland will be back, which some think could lead to a break with Britain and thus the end of U.K.

 

The Murdochracy is damaging the West


His media empire stretches through out the English speaking part of the western hemisphere. Dominant in the U.S., U.K. and with significant operations in New Zealand and Australia, the increasingly divisive and toxic influence of Rupert Keith Murdoch is finally starting to face international push back. In light of the devastating bush fires caused by the very thing his media empire denies, individuals, companies and celebrities are coming alive with the hashtag #Murdochracy: climate change. The Urban Dictionary defines Murdochracy as:

The murder of democracy through misinformation via Rupert Murdoch’s “news websites

The influence of Mr Murdoch’s empire in journalism is perhaps best expressed through the fact that to varying extents every government in the west acknowledges climate change to some extent. The two that do not are the U.S. Government of Donald Trump and the Australian Government of Scott Morrison, both of which are supported by – in the case of the United States – Fox News, New York Post and in Australia news outlets such as The Age, The Australian and others. A third one, the United Kingdom, where Mr Murdoch resides, has several tabloid papers operating under News Corp which include The Daily Mail, The Telegraph.

In 2011, U.K.. tabloid News of the World suddenly went out of print after it was found that Mr Murdoch’s tabloid rag had hacked into various peoples phones and stolen personal information. Among them were a murdered British school girl named Millie Downer, former Prime Minister of Britain Gordon Brown and a range of celebrities. Mr Murdoch’s newspaper apologized, but few believed it was credible. It led to the trial of chief editor Rebekah Brooks who was accused of masterminding the hacking, and although she was found not guilty, many sincerely believe she at least knew about it.

Mr Murdoch’s tabloids have crashed multiple Governments. The most notable one was the Australian Labor-led Government of Julia Gillard and – following a leadership spill – Kevin Rudd. During the election campaigns, Australian conservative media, shock jocks and the Murdoch tabloids savaged her gender, her politics, her very being. Prior to that Gough Whitlam was toppled. But notably when Liberal Government’s have failed to show due “respect”, they have been toppled as well – as Malcolm Turnbull found out.

Mr Turnbull’s replacement Scott Morrison is a fully fledged climate denier, having once gone to Parliament with a lump of coal. Mr Morrison’s determination to ignore the fires has fuelled a backlash no other Australian government has seen from an environmental emergency. His failure to take a Commander-in-Chief moment and try to seize control of the situation has tarnished him and his Liberal party, normally favourites of Mr Murdoch.

In more recent years, Mr Murdoch’s sons have gained some responsibility in the empire. James who as recently as September 2019 might have deliberately put a bit of distance between himself and the rest of the Murdoch empire. Something that became a bit more obvious a few days ago when he attacked the other Murdoch’s stance on climate change, which could either be trying to save himself or a genuine realization that the Murdochracy has gone too far.

His other son Lachlan appears to be classic conservative, but possibly with principles. He does not appear to be a fan of politicians, but in taking over Fox was quickly given lessons by controversial hosts Jeanine Pirro (who went on an anti-Muslim tirade) and Sean Hannity (who was on stage with Mr Trump, when he should not have been)on their support for Mr Trump. Both were disciplined by Fox, but received support from the White House.

Situation Theatre reports that Journalists have at long last started speaking out. Some have said that the Murdoch empire used to require balance in reporting, which they freely acknowledged is long gone. Some have said the man himself, Mr Murdoch, despite having handed some control to his sons still wields the true power and that it needs to be checked.

The rebellion against the #Murdochracy is young and in its infancy, but it has some potentially powerful allies. The bush fires have awakened Australia in ways that no prior bush fire season has, to the environmental threats posed by the neoliberal agenda. The agenda that Mr Murdoch has trumpeted for so long is increasingly seen as a bad thing around the west.

Perhaps the best thing that can happen to the west is the downfall of the Murdochracy.

Western politics sink to a new low as New Zealand looks to 2020


In just over 2 weeks one of the most turbulent decades in generations around the world will come to an end. A decade of wars, filthy geopolitics and greed. A decade in which Western politics both in New Zealand and abroad sank to what might well be an all time low. But as we here look to 2020 and the up coming election, the world is taking stock of the massive victory of Boris Johnson and nervously starting to think about what impeachment could – or could not – mean for that former “arsenal of democracy”, the United States a year from its own election.

In New Zealand scandals and alleged scandals rocked the 2008 election (N.Z. First allegations over donations); 2011 election (the tea tape); 2014 election (Dirty Politics). Whilst much gratitude and respect has been shown towards incumbent Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern over her handling of the Christchurch mosque shootings and more recently the lethal eruption of White Island, the A.C.T. and National parties will attack her economic record, her perceived softness on crime and gangs.

As New Zealand looks towards 2020 there are a number of potentially dirty elements that may come into play in terms of politicking and outside influences. The gun lobby, angered as it is by the change in the gun laws following the Christchurch mosque attacks will be likely to try to undermine Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, depicting her as anti-freedom and a Communist. The oil and gas lobby will be active in trying to portray the Government that Ms Ardern leads as anti-business, tree hugging greenies.

But compared with the firestorm likely to engulf the American political spectrum over the next 11 months, ours might not even be a beach bonfire. There are certainly worse political spectacles than the triennial New Zealand political mud slinging competition. The constant fundraising, the hugely partisan media, the degrading personal attacks and the outside influences are just a few things that the American politicians deserving – or not – of (re)election, must contend with.

Before then though, given the nature of the fallout from Boris Johnson’s massive victory in the U.K. elections, it seems probable that the constituent parts of the United Kingdom – Wales exempt – may have a go at breaking up the union. It just might be that we are seeing the first birth pangs of the U.K.’s dissolution into separate nations. Despite Mr Johnson’s call for unity, Scottish nationalism has enjoyed an almighty rev up in the past few days with the Scottish National Party taking 47 of the 59 seats in Scotland. Meanwhile Ireland, facing the prospect of a hard border with the United Kingdom may feel compelled to demand an independence vote with a view to merging with the Republic of Ireland.

But before even that happens, if Mr Johnson’s promise to be all done on Brexit by 31 January 2020 succeeds, Britain will be out of the European Union by the end of January. Then, with Scotland dominated by a party that explicitly wanted to stay in the E.U., and Ireland fearful of a hard border and a return of “The Troubles”, the disintegration of the United Kingdom and an deeper loathing, might get underway.

Watching on from two relatively small islands in the South Pacific might not be a bad thing after all.

Election results don’t bode well for United Kingdom


In England, the Conservatives led by Boris Johnson have swept to power in a vote that has rocked Labour and the Liberal Democrats. After almost completely losing their majority under former Prime Minister Theresa May to the Labour Party in 2017, Mr Johnson stormed back into office on the back of his “Get Brexit Done” message and increasing his party’s representation in Parliament to 365 seats. In a 650 seat Parliament that is a 39 seat majority

For Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his party the election was a disaster on a scale that one has to go back decades to find a similar size rout. His party only scored 203 seats. Not surprisingly Mr Corbyn resigned from the Labour Party, which will elect a new leader in early 2020. Where Labour goes from here, I am not sure, but it will surely be looking at other Labour parties around the world and wondering how they managed to so utterly mess it up for the wider Labour movement.

For Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, the failure to take her own seat and the near complete lack of progress in the party across the country – up a paltry 1 seat in Parliament – has led to her stepping down. The Liberal Democrats are a far cry from the victorious middle party of 62 seats that forged a coalition with the David Cameron edition of the Conservative Party in 2010.

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party swept to victory, strongly suggesting that Scotland’s desire for independence is hardening. With 48 seats out of 59 it was a decisive showing of the party that will lead any moves to make Scotland independent. This is despite Mr Johnson saying that Scotland would not be allowed to hold a vote on leaving. As Scotland voted to remain in the European Union, to have the Conservative Party romp to victory on a LEAVE platform is directly contrary to Scottish ambitions. Thus in the days and weeks ahead we can expect to Scotland begin pushing for a referendum on whether to leave the U.K. or not.

In Ireland the expanding centre ground of Irish politics is overshadowed by the likelihood that Britain will exit the E.U. in a few weeks with some sort of hard border forming. Many will be wary about the potential return of the “Troubles”, the stormy period in Irish-English history rocked by violence. But it also means that the union between the four constituent parts of the U.K. might be finally coming to an end, which may open the way for northern and southern Ireland uniting after many painful years.

In Wales, the only part of the U.K. that does not appear to be wracked with separatist spasms, politicians are probably most likely to wait to see  how Ireland and Scotland behave over the several weeks..

What does this mean for New Zealand?

New Zealand will likely continue to enjoy good access to the United Kingdom. Given our historic closeness to the U.K. I cannot imagine a really radical change coming except that crossing the border might change somewhat. How the probable break up of the union that made the United Kingdom possible goes, I am not entirely sure.

Irrespective of whether the United Kingdom disintegrates, I believe New Zealand’s good relations with all factions mean that we will be a high priority for negotiating trade deals and establishing diplomatic relations with. But before then we need to see how Brexit goes – will the next seven weeks whilst we wait for Mr Johnson’s version of Brexit to play out go smoothly or will Britain be plunged into Parliamentary infighting like it was over the northern hemisphere summer? Will Ms Sturgeon conclude the time for a Scottish independence referendum has come and demand it from London?

Brexit apparently good for New Zealand says British Minister


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.