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Dr Muriel Newman

Referendum Chaos

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Last week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with her British counterpart Teresa May at 10 Downing Street to discuss a trade deal with New Zealand once the UK leaves the European Union. While formal negotiations cannot begin until Britain has concluded its Brexit deal, preliminary talks have been on-going between trade officials since the UK triggered Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union on the 29th of March 2017 to begin the withdrawal process.

As set out under that treaty, the UK has two years to negotiate a Withdrawal Agreement and framework for a future relationship with the EU before the exit takes place at 11pm on the 29th of March 2019, whether an agreement is in place or not.

While the UK is presently our fifth largest trading partner, with two-way trade worth almost $6 billion, given our long trading history before the UK joined the Common Market, there is significant  potential for growth. Accordingly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has launched a consultation process, asking New Zealanders how the relationship can be expanded, what the trade priorities should be, what areas could be subject to closer cooperation, what trade barriers should be removed, and which businesses need better access to UK markets.

They want tariffs and other barriers that restrict the free flow of goods and services between our two countries removed, and they want to make it easier for New Zealand businesses to export to the UK. Bizarrely, the guidelines for the public consultation process also specify that a key focus of a trade agreement should be “Reflecting our goals including progress on gender equality, indigenous rights, climate change, and improved environmental outcomes”!

The public consultations process ends at midnight on February 11th 2019. If you would like to share your ideas, you can do so by emailing UKFTA@mfat.govt.nz.

The UK Government has also undertaken a similar public consultation process in readiness for a close trading relationship.

With this ground work, and a commitment to enter into formal negotiations as soon as possible, officials are confident that a free trade agreement between our two countries will be finalised quickly.

In addition, to facilitate the process and provide certainty to businesses that are already trading between our two countries, a Mutual Recognition Agreement has been signed. This will enable the trading framework New Zealand currently has with the EU to roll over to the UK once the exit occurs.

This means exporters should be no worse off once the new Brexit arrangements come into force, since our products will be treated in the same way in the UK as they are in the EU.

When the British PM informed the House of Commons that she had been discussing a future trade deal with New Zealand, MPs jeered. She responded, “Before Members opposite start talking about the size of New Zealand, it’s not just a trade deal with New Zealand but actually, membership of the United Kingdom in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership”.

It would be a major achievement for Prime Minister May if the UK was able to quickly join the CPTPP – the free trade agreement between the 11 nations of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, that covers 14 percent of global growth and was designed to be open to newcomers.

However, while officials are busy looking into potential UK trading opportunities, the politicians are still focussed on the exit. It was just two weeks ago that the House of Commons rejected the exit deal the Prime Minister had negotiated with the European Union by a massive majority of 432 opposed to 202 in favour. In what was the largest ever defeat for a sitting UK Government, over a third of Conservative MPs voted against their leader.

Theresa May’s deal was the result of almost two years of negotiation with the EU. It included a £39 billion penalty payment to the EU for breaking the partnership. A transition period was agreed, from 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020, during which there would be few changes in order to allow the UK and EU to negotiate a trade deal and give businesses time to adjust to the new arrangements. Special measures were developed for UK and EU nationals living away from home. And a ‘backstop’ solution was found to the fraught issue of the Irish border.

However, it is the ‘backstop’ that has become the major stumbling block for the deal.

At the heart of the difficulties is the fact that the UK government has made a commitment to uphold Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement, which means avoiding the return of a ‘hard’ physical border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU.

But avoiding a hard border would essentially push the customs border out into the Irish Sea. As a result, UK trade with Northern Island would have to be subject to EU regulations, since there would be no other barriers preventing goods entering Northern Ireland from being shipped across the EU. In effect, this would leave the UK still under the thumb of the EU, while, as a non-EU member, it would have no influence at all over regulations.

This has led critics of Theresa May’s ‘soft’ Brexit deal to claim that it is Brexit in name only – ‘Remain’ by stealth.

Having failed to gain acceptance from the House of Commons for her negotiated agreement with the EU, Theresa May has been seeking a cross-party “consensus”. The UK Labour Party is refusing to take part in any discussions.

Other options on the table include further negotiations with the EU, another referendum, a delay of the March 29 deadline, a General Election, or the so-called ‘hard’ Brexit, whereby the UK leaves the EU with no negotiated agreement, essentially becoming a ‘third country’ at 11pm on March 29.

This is in fact, one of the scenarios that the UK Government has been preparing for over the last two years. With the deadline fast approaching, on the 18th of December Cabinet agreed to accelerate ‘no deal’ plans as an operational priority. They issued hundreds of technical notices to advise businesses of the changes in processes and procedures that would be necessary at the border. They also advised of the potential for the disruption of supply chains, so that those who will be affected by the customs delays can stockpile backup supplies.

Legislation has also been passed to ensure that there will be functioning security, financial, trade, and customs regimes. Some 15,000 civil servants are now said to be working on Brexit preparations, and an additional 1,600 border security staff are being put in place.

While the EU is also preparing their members for a no deal scenario, there remains a joint commitment to ensure there will be no disruption in a number of priority areas, including air services across Europe, and the export of live animals.

Many believe the European Union brought Brexit upon itself when it moved away from its focus on free trade to become an all-powerful bureaucracy that consumed the free will of sovereign nations.

The concept of European integration had emerged after World War Two. In 1957 the European Economic Community, or Common Market, was established and Britain joined in 1973. In 1993 the Maastricht Treaty formally established the European Union. It was further refined by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.

The EU is based on the founding principles of the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. The founders believed that enabling people to move from countries with fewer jobs to countries with labour shortages would improve European growth. They further believed that encouraging people to mix across borders would help to prevent wars.

As a result, the EU morphed from a free trade union into a social engineering experiment that incrementally eroded the democratic rights of member states as it edged towards political integration and a common government for Europe. It has become a self-perpetuating bloated bureaucracy employing some 50,000 people, passing laws that no-one asked for, no-one wants, and no democratic government can change.

The former British Prime Minister David Cameron first announced that the public should “have their say” on membership of the European Union in 2013. At a time when many European countries were struggling to recover from the global financial crisis, the UK was demanding more democratic accountability and a stronger focus on economic growth.

But by the time the referendum asking “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” was held in 2016, it was the EU’s free movement of people that created the most concern, as illegal migrants flooded into Europe, and crossed the Channel to Britain.

While politicians were confident that the British people would vote to remain in the EU, the public had a different view. On June 23rd 2016, they confounded the establishment by voting to leave by 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent.

The campaign had been one of the most divisive in British history. Boris Johnson, the former London Mayor, who led the “Leave” campaign, accused the European Union of pursuing similar goals to Hitler. PM David Cameron led the “Remain” campaign with over-the-top scaremongering and a cast of celebrities from around the world, all pleading with voters to stay in the Union.

The fallout from the vote was widespread. The Prime Minister announced his resignation, and the British pound had its largest fall in decades. Stock markets around the world went into decline.

After 43 years as part of the European alliance the British people said they’d had enough.

With concerns about illegal migration being such a major factor in the Brexit upheaval, it was surprising last year to see New Zealand First, which campaigned on restricting immigration, promoting the United Nations’ Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration – an agreement designed to require signatory countries to settle the millions of illegal migrants who are living in temporary refugee camps.

Given the controversial nature of the compact, many countries called on their Parliaments to decide whether to support the agreement, or reject it like the US, Australia, and a dozen other countries.

However, rather than debating the issue in Parliament, the Labour-New Zealand First-Green Party Government tried to keep the deal secret, refusing to disclose their intention to sign the compact until the very last moment. 

Some attribute the Brexit chaos to the referendum itself and the appropriateness of the question. It’s an interesting issue, particularly as New Zealand will have a referendum on the legalisation of cannabis at next year’s General Election.

This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator, Dr Roger Bowden, formerly a Professor of Economics and Finance at Victoria University and presently a visiting Fellow at Dortmund Technical University in Germany, has been looking into the role of referenda and the lessons that can be learnt from Brexit:

“My take away from all this is that referendums do have a place, even binding ones. But it is best to call on these when the issues are clear and easily understood by everyone in the community. Brexit or not might have seemed clear at the time, driven as it was mainly by fears of uncontrollable immigration across the Channel. But it was not of this genre.”

Professor Bowden believes most difficult decisions are best left to parliaments – “That way we’ll know who to blame it if all goes wrong.”


What is your opinion of Brexit – do you believe it will be good or bad for the UK?


*Poll comments are posted below.


*All NZCPR poll results can be seen in the Archive.


Click to view x 120


Should never have joined in the first place Graham
They will have their own culture and way of life back based on foundations that are tight. Not being told by unelected grey suited individuals from Europe what they can do and can not do. Dene
I have been following this for some time now. The UK needs to escape and in so doing will hasten the demise of the EU. All the predictions of doomsayers in the past did not come true The economy the Pound the Unemployed all got better after refusal to join the Euro and after the referendum It will be the same again after a few bumps in the road. The unfortunate part in this whole episode is that the negotiations were handled by a remainer. May should have gone in hard at the beginning saying we will leave but if you want to trade with us come up with an agreement we can all live with and not try to have the best of both worlds and get the worst IT WILL BE GOOD FOR NZ AS WE CAN TRADE AGAIN WITH THE UK Robin
There maybe short term pain but in the long term UK will prosper Lachlan
In the long run it will be good once it settles down. Will take a while, but they need to be able to control their borders to immigrants. Europe is becoming very Islamic and that is frightening. The Islamist numbers in the UK already are very scary – don’t want anymore. Graeme
After a rocky start it will get better. Isa
The idea may have sounded good; but the realities are hard hitting and were not appreciated at the referendum. Britain is isolating itself from its neighbours. Peter
To take back control over your own country has got to be a good thing. They made a mistake years ago when they signed up to join the Common Market. Eric
Brexit is crazy and the original referendum completely missed the point of the reality. In the end they should, similar to our MMP switch, now have a vote between stay, leave as per May’s ‘soft’ plan or just leave with no deal. It’d also be a good idea to pay an independent party to analyse the costs and benefits of the options as most of what passed for analysis in the original referendum was little short of lies. Ray
With all the weaknesses of democracy – it is still the voice of the people and any other alternative as history has shown is future trouble. Maurice
Long term it will be better. Some short term pain maybe. Ray
Although this has turned into a shambles to what it was hopefully sorted earlier it should help the UK and its influx of intruders crossing into same We need a similar ruling here we have far too many trouble makers Marylin
laws created by unelected bureaucrats is a totalitarian situation. Nationalism , not globalism Bruce
Disastrous Laurie
Good on the British; all speed to them. Any initial difficulties with a no-deal Brexit will be worked out fairly quickly. The only binding referendum I am interested in is the abolition of the racist Maori seats, eh Winston Peters. And where are all these illegal immigrants going to be housed when you cannot even build houses for New Zealanders? Monica
get rid of the socialist agenda Barry
good get out from under the them whilst they can,will be good for us as well? James
England survived quite well without Brexit and I should hope they will again. Elizabeth
Brexit would ultimately be good for the UK in that they will run their own Country again. Bill
Under present conditions, remaining in the EU would be very very bad. Richard
It’s about unrestricted immigration John
On balance Geoffrey
Both the UK and NZ should stand on their own feet. Being dictated by the UN or any other dictorial combination is dangerous and we should stay away from it as far as possible. Johan
Britain needs Europe .Stewart
According to my sister who lives in the Uk Britain will be better off financially if they leave Kerin
It is what the people wanted and voted for, go for it. Not this current go/stay movement. What a shambles. Fraser
There is a religious dimension to the EU which is generally concealed. Jeremy Corbyn is right when he describes it as a Catholic club. More than half the member countries have concordats with the Vatican, and the EU was praised by Catholic leaders because it was founded on Roman Catholic principles. In effect run as a Catholic dictatorship. It was no accident that de Gasperri, Schumann and Adenauer, the founding fathers have all been elevated to sainthood in the Catholic church. Unusual for politicians, but they have all done great political work for the church. The high numbers of voters who want to remain in the EU have to a large extent migrated to Britain from Catholic countries. Nione of this was mentioned by Karl du Fresne in his recent blog on the EU. What he gave was a Catholic interpretation or rather misrepresentation of EU history. Donald
Lets get back to countries having the right to govern themselves as they see fit, Sharen
U.K. In my opinion, has lost its identity, the integration of different cultures is not working, there are divided cities all over the country, all serving their own individual wants regardless of the true interest of the U.K. If the UK can stay strong in its own identity then I believe it can be successful in the end, otherwise it could be ‘…divided they fall’ Audrey
I believe ALL countries should be independent & choose how many migrants they allow into THEIR country NOT the Euopeans. Cindy
BREXIT is stupidity in the extreme Richard
Europe has too much sway over democratically elected MPs in the British Parliament resulting in the Brits losing control of their own economy. Kerry
open trade has shown the way forward= this is going backwards Rub
It will restore sovereignty to the UK Anthony
Freedom Marc
The fact of the matter is no matter what the UK does it has to face a plethora of massive problems — one of which is the rampant islamisation of the country. That is where the real enemy is.And Europe on a whole is exposed to this threat on a massive scale. Brexit is but a feeble try to save what is left of a once powerful nation. My real worries lie with what is starting to develop right here in our own country. This unholy alliance of red green and NZ First is what will bring us down if we are not getting a strong conservative movement into parliament. Michael
Ultimately Sovereignty must be maintained all other issues are resolvable through negotiation. Kevin
The bringing together of the European companies for trade was a catalyst for the aligning Europe’s policies and law. This was allowing some very socialist to communistic and world governance initiatives to be forced on the British as well as others in the EU. The whole European Union should break up. Nations and people before World Government. Bruce
We were resident adults in the U.K. when we joined what we BELIEVED to be a ‘Common Market’. The powers that be knew that was not the ultimate goal. Power has been handed to an UNELECTED group of people. The E.U. is corrupt and their accounts haven’t been signed off for decades. Sylvia
England will regain its sovereignty getting rid of a thick layer of bureaucracy and reestablish its self esteem. There will probably be some short term pain but the long term gain will be worth it. Gary
Best thing they could ever do. I would support them. Neil
It needs to be done Edward
The worst thing the UK can do now is kick the ball down the road. The Remainers will do anything to thwart the referendum result even if it means the UK effectively remains in the EU but with absolutely no power. John
excellent idea. Should never have joined and wasted the fishing oil and gas rights to the United States of Europe. Globalists fighting it under Agenda 21 NWO strategy. Anon
The EU is becoming a bureaucratic monster taking over the freedom of control of individual countries, by requiring compliance with their dictates. Pierre
Britain needs to escape from the 4th Reich David
I think it gives the UK back control of their country and how they should run it. Robert
I never liked the idea of Europe being under one rule… Each country should have its own sovereignty. Jack P
I can’t comprehend why you suggested referendum have no place in to-days political environment. As we move toward Global Government, {EU was meant to be the first step}, our only chance of retaining some measure of a voice for the people are referenda.. Theresa May has always been a remainer, that is why she is dragging the chain, hoping the British public will eventually reverse their decision to leave, & make her feel like a hero for not walking away.. A.G.R.
Below is an excellent example of why binding referendum should be made law in New Zealand. Brexit is the result of the 1973 British public’s referendum not to join, which Parliament ignored. Don’t blame the people, blame the Government that ignored the will of the people and this is the major reason binding referendum should become law in New Zealand. George
Craziest idea they ever had. Maurice
Britain needs to be rid of the EU look at the billions they had to front every year was day light rookery Russell
Those that voted for Brexit will be the ones who will suffer the most when their industries will not be able to get the products they sell into the EU Easily Colin
In the short-term, hard. But in the long-term, very good. Philip
to take back legal control and manage own destiny is paramount. However, from an economic and security aspect it would be mutually beneficial for a speedy UK-EU agreement to be put in place Alan
There will be some negative outcomes and retalitary measures by the EU, but there will also be huge opportunities for the British economy due to being freed from the EU strangle hold. John
I find it very difficult to vote. At first I thought it would be a good idea, but I am more confused now. David
I have changed my mind since the referendum Trevor
Short-term, hard. But long-term, good Philip
The EU, like the UN, is an organisation with a dangerous and undemocratic agenda towards world rule. While I have little sympathy with the Brits after they wrote their former dominions off like a dirty rag so they could join the Europeans, they would clearly be better off getting out now before it is too late. At the time of Britain joining the EU we lost out trade with them and needed to find trade elsewhere. Today we can trade with the Brits or even without them, as we did then. Rob
But must be a complete break Catherine
They will be masters of their own destiny Frank
EEC ruined by academic woofters Chris
Unlike the treacherous NZ Coalition government, UK Brexiteers recognize the value of maintaining sovereignty rather than being dictated to by the Socialist UN.. Geoff
Can only lead to disruption and broken treaties and agreements for NZ. Carl
The UK will end up much better off once out of the EU. It will also be good for NZ. We should pull out of everything to do with the UN who are going to cause big problems for the free world with an agenda that most certainly won’t be in our best interests. Helen
It will give UK the ability to retrieve their autonomy. Jenny
Britain will once more be a free self -governing nation, ready and able to enter into mutually beneficial arrangements with friendly nations, unchained from the monstrous imperial anarchy that is the European Union. David
The sooner Britian leaves the better as Brussels has had to much control on what they can do and when you consider the cost to Britain they have received little in return the motor industry is a good example having been there middle of last year Germany has been dumping cars on Britain and so has France and the Japanese have been shut out .Also a lot of Manufacturing has been given to Eastern block countries as requested from Brussels. The sooner they leave the better as there are a number of commonwealth countries and the U S A who are willing to trade with Britain. Those that are complaining in Britain are the young as this will restrict their travel which shows their selfish side ME TWO is alive and well . Ken
The British people were sold a lie. They need a second referendum to determine their future. Also an exit plays into Putin’s plans of weakening the EU. David
Bringing back sovereign control of borders, and excluding the trojan horse of refugeeism – allowing in persons unexamined, who likely, some of them, carry extremist intentions to cause mayhem. L
Without ridiculous penalties. If eu wants to press uk should just go David
Restore democratic decision making Jeff
The original EEC trade concept was good for Britain as it ensured the post WW2 European markets were not closed off to Britain but the Post Maastrict era in which the Communists have used the governance cordination to ram through their Brussels dominated regulations which negated all real member democracy was nothing more than a communist farce as Farage MEP constantly highlighted. Brexit had to happen to restore the fundamental democratic rights to Britain. It is a lesson we need to observe. Richard
Vote for less stealth more transparency. Peter
I am not confident in my opinion Kevin
Trade has become a minor part of the EU. Governance has come to the stage where it is impinging on individual rights. That is the thing that hurts. Dennis
Britain will be able to regain more co0ntrol of its borders & be freer to trade with the rest of the world, especially the Commonwealth. Cyril
But not if they have to pay 39 billion Stuff the EU Arthur
Most thinking people like to make their own way in life AND NOT RULED in their family thinking by heavy bureaucrats flourishing in their protected castles far removed from thinking people. Just look at the shambles resulting from Open Borders as determined by totally removed ‘fat’ bureaucrats. Stuart
This is about those on one hand warning it may effect some peoples incomes and the others who want a return to the control of their own destiny.. The EU a good example of unbridled control by large government administrations who have a continual need to qualify their existence with dumb laws and regulations – much as they do here. Rex
No more open borders John
In the long term. Don
It gets rid of 50,000 bureaucrats and a bunch of stupid laws no one wanted in the first place. Mark
Absolutely great for UK – who wants to be controlled by another Carolyn
Too complicated David
It is time for the people in the UK to determine their own future without a European bureaucracy making decisions largely biased toward other nations Nev
The EU is run by faceless people who devise ever increasing ways of strangling the UK. May has made an absolute mess of the whole BREXIT. roger
This will allow the UK to make their own laws, secure their borders and freely trade with other nations. Lee
Although it’s been badly managed by the UK govt. thus far, Brexit will be good for the UK in the medium term. John
I personally believe that after an initial period of disruption and uncertainty, the UK will come out stronger and better for it. Brtent
In the short term, bad. In the long term, good. Alan
Gaining their independence and sovereignty back is very important for Britain. losing identity and being swallowed in European red tape has been a slow death for all true British Patriots. Make Britain Great again. Jack
Keeping government close to governed and making government accountable to the government are key to a functional democracy. The EU, being an unelected body, making decisions and enacting laws with little accountability is a recipe for disaster! Allan
The EU has lost its Christian soul and is becoming an Islamic continent. Ken
Will take time though. Roger
Britain can only benefit from exiting the EU . Britain will no longer have to pay the exorbitant fees to belong to the EU and who then use the money to fund other EU countries to undercut Britain%u2019s industries . Britain will be able to use this money to support its own industries and close its borders to uncontrolled immigration . Jock
For too long, the English have “bent the knee” to the gnomes of Brussells. Time to put the “Great” back into “Great Britain.” Vernon
The fear of uncontrolled migration from countries with ongoing religious wars, was the main factor that the British people voted to get out while they still had the power to react. On the down side, with Britain going alone and the combined military strength of the remaining EU countries, I wonder how long it will be before we see an agenda which sees the total isolation of the British Isles from Europe Does the Commonwealth actually trust ALL the EU countries or are we again being dictated to by the UN. Barry
The UK will be able to regain it’s sovereignty when it moves beyond the shackles of the European Union. Ron
Cannot see it is an advantage Graeme
Just look at the Lisbon Treaty to know how much it will decimate Britain, if it stays in the E U. And of course what has already been done to Britain’s Industry, being ‘Farmed out”,already. Geoff
Sooner the better,and it might see the end of the EU and the 8000 un-elected bureaucrats Eddie
Britain’s economy will boom after Brexit. John
Allows Britain to return to what it always was …. an international trading nation. William
Freedom to make decisions for the good of U.K. Chris
The EU costs them a lot money and a lot of jobs as well as open borders Colin
The EU like the UN is an unaccountable monster. The sooner the UK leaves the EU the better it will be for the Brits. The sooner NZ pulls out of all UN treaties, the better it will be for Kiwis!  Paul
The UK will be better off out of the EU. They will have a bumpy start at the beginning, but the opportunities for global trade are huge. And they should start with NZ. Mary
Other EU countries will be watching the UK pull out. Once the UK finds their feet they will do well. It would not be a surprise to see other countries  follow. Jarrod
The UK will flourish away from the bureaucratic constraints of the EU. Let’s hope NZ benefits from new trade deals as well. Rodney
The EU and the UN both have global rule ambitions. They are both dangerous. The UK is better out of it.  Thomas