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.