English, May on com­mon ground


In be­com­ing Prime Min­is­ter so close to an elec­tion, Bill English runs the risk of look­ing like he’s play­ing only a cer­e­mo­nial role.

Given that English’s main con­tri­bu­tion may well be to un­veil the gov­ern­ment’s tax cuts pack­age in the May bud­get, what should his party do with him in the mean­time?

Send him over­seas? Done. English has just re­turned from a ‘‘hi, I’m Bill’’ tour of Europe.

English would have found much that felt fa­mil­iar. The UK’s Theresa May and English were both el­e­vated to power in the wake of un­ex­pected res­ig­na­tions, and with­out much com­pe­ti­tion from their col­leagues.

Nei­ther have yet won a man­date from the elec­torate.

May’s main qual­i­fi­ca­tions for high of­fice were her six years as a safe pair of hands at the Home Of­fice.

English too, has a rep­u­ta­tion built on man­age­rial com­pe­tence, rather than on ex­cite­ment and in­no­va­tion.

Dur­ing his Down­ing St visit, English was re­mark­ably un­de­mand­ing about May’s crack­down on Ki­wis seek­ing to work in the UK.

Af­ter all, English sug­gested, she’s a busy wo­man with more im­por­tant things on her plate than us : ‘‘Much as we’d like [the Bri­tish] to pay more at­ten­tion to us, we wouldn’t ex­pect [that] un­til they’ve dealt with the big­ger is­sues.’’

It would be dif­fi­cult to imag­ine an Aus­tralian politi­cian tak­ing such a com­pli­ant line with a Pommy PMcrack­ing down on Aus­tralians.

Last Septem­ber, Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop had firmly re­minded the Brits that their re­la­tion­ship was a two way street, with mu­tual in­vest­ments at stake.

Re­gard­less, English won credit here at home for fur­ther­ing New Zealand’s chances of a trade deal with the UK, post-Brexit.

Un­for­tu­nately, Bishop and the Aus­tralians were push­ing that same trade bar­row in Lon­don, months ago.

More­over, Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump also wants a Free Trade Agree­ment with the UK, post-Brexit.

Keep in mind that Trump re­jected the TPP trade deal be­cause it didn’t de­liver enough to US cor­po­rates and their work­ers.

There­fore, US/UK trade ne­go­ti­a­tions are likely to be hard sledding for Bri­tain.

The US falls well short of the ‘phylo-san­i­tary’ trade stan­dards set by the Ger­mans – who don’t like drench­ing their chick­ens in chlo­rine or pump­ing hor­mones into their beef, as the Amer­i­cans are wont to do.

En­ter New Zealand, which likes to be liked by ev­ery­one.

Re­port­edly, we are also seek­ing an FTA with the EU that will in­volve the same reg­u­la­tions that the UK wants to es­cape.

So, we face dif­fi­cult choices on trade.

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