Gangs, gongs and a nasty strain of Covid-19 become the stuff of ministerial statements over the holiday period

Funding of $63 million to help keep New Zealanders safe in the water was the subject of the last item of Beehive news we posted before Christmas.  To kick off 2021, the welfare of tongue-tied infants, digitally disadvantaged oldies and fastidious prison inmates (many of them gang members) was high on the government’s agenda for official statements.

The tightening of our  border controls to keep all of us safe from virulent new strains of Covid-19 was the subject of two press releases.

And three ministers (including the PM) took time out to congratulate  Kiwis awarded New Year gongs.

Oh – and let’s not forget that Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta, on Christmas Day,  welcomed the agreement reached by the United Kingdom and the European Union on their future post-Brexit relationship.

While Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis issued just one statement, he was kept busy over several days dealing with something he called “the prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison”.

The “event” involved 16 belligerent blokes rioting for six days at Waikeria Prison, lighting fires, throwing debris at Department of Corrections staff, and destroying something called the top jail. Continue reading “Gangs, gongs and a nasty strain of Covid-19 become the stuff of ministerial statements over the holiday period”

Boris Johnson: the man who saved Europe?

This year has seen some spectacular political victories: Jacinda Ardern in NZ’s election and now Boris’s post-Brexit trade treaty with the EU. But having secured a triumph, the risk is in resting on the laurels, when one should be looking to exploit to the full.

And Boris’s victory does look comprehensive. His critics alternated between saying he would never get a deal or it would be a very bad one. In fact, he has achieved his main objectives of rolling over the existing tariff-and-quota-free trade terms and securing recognition of the UK’s sovereign equality in managing the ongoing relationship.

Continue reading “Boris Johnson: the man who saved Europe?”

Some Christmas cheer from the Brits – their trade deal with the EU is as good as we could have expected

As readers well know, we at Point of Order never rest. So, we break your post-Christmas reverie to report some very good news for New Zealand from Britain’s exit from the European Union. 

The Christmas Eve deal ensures there will be no tariffs and no quotas on British-EU trade.

Neither side will impose tariffs on goods being traded and a zero quota agreement  means there will be no limits on the quantity of any type of goods that could be traded.  Furthermore, the UK will be able to strike free trade deals with other countries including NZ.

In essence, with both sides agreeing there will be no tariffs and quotas, NZ avoids the worst-possible alternative which would seriously impact NZ exports into the EU and Britain. Exporters trading across the UK and the EU may still face issues.  It’s as good as NZ negotiators hoped for. Continue reading “Some Christmas cheer from the Brits – their trade deal with the EU is as good as we could have expected”

Tsunami of Nanny State summer safety warnings includes a welcome reminder to avoid a tsunami

Jacinda’s Nanny State wants us to have a happy Christmas and a safe one. 

Ministers devoted to improving our wellbeing have issued advice and warnings on how to avoid food poisoning, how to keep skin cancer at bay and – you can never be too careful, people – how to respond to a tsunami warning.

We are also being equipped to recognise the conditions that increase fire risk.

And there’s advice on the summer programme of resealing and repair work on state highways, to help steer motorists through the holiday driving season.

Transport Minister Michael Wood brought infrastructure investment  and job creation into considerations on that one:  more than 2,000 people will be working on highways across the country this summer, resealing and repairing around 1,900 lane kilometres of state highway (the equivalent of a two-lane road from Picton to Bluff or a single lane on SH1 from Bluff to Kaitaia).

The wellbeing of businesses has not been forgotten.  The Government is working with New Zealand businesses, industry representatives and other stakeholders to ensure they are prepared for all Brexit eventualities from 1 January. Continue reading “Tsunami of Nanny State summer safety warnings includes a welcome reminder to avoid a tsunami”

Brexit ho – is a deal in sight?

On again, off again.  Then, after British PM Boris Johnson’s statement that there was no point in continuing negotiations without movement from the EU, there are signals that a trade and economic deal might be possible in the next few weeks.

We shall see.  But it’s a good moment to pay tribute to the skill of the negotiators and their principals.

Continue reading “Brexit ho – is a deal in sight?”

US politicians – with a fondness for Ireland – warn UK about Brexit negotiations

As if the UK doesn’t have enough trouble negotiating Brexit with the European Union, it has now entered the US presidential election campaign.

Democrat candidate Joe Biden says there will be “no US-UK free trade agreement” if London tampers with the exit arrangements over Northern Ireland.  House speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi and four congressmen also claim Brexit is posing dangers to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.

Northern Ireland is an article of faith for the Democrats. Former president Bill Clinton still claims the lion’s share for bringing the conflict to an end.  Ever since President John F Kennedy in the 1950s, there has been a strong bond with Ireland.

It became an act of authenticity with Democrats to claim some form of identity with Ireland. Ireland loved the Kennedys. At Galway Cathedral, there is a mosaic representation of Kennedy and Patrick Pearse, the leader of the 1916 rebellion, praying to an image of the risen Christ. Continue reading “US politicians – with a fondness for Ireland – warn UK about Brexit negotiations”

Breach-of-international-law row unlikely to deflect Boris Johnson’s trade negotiating strategy

Opponents of Brexit are finding it hard to pick winnable fights.  

The latest stoush: the UK’s withdrawal treaty gives the EU powers over the Northern Ireland market; the EU has suggested (should an FTA not be agreed) that these might be used to hinder the flow of goods to the province from the rest of the UK; so the British government intends to  take powers in its internal market bill to stop this.

Cue outrage at the possible breach of the withdrawal treaty and thus international law.

Continue reading “Breach-of-international-law row unlikely to deflect Boris Johnson’s trade negotiating strategy”

A clear UK position puts Brussels under pressure in the EU / UK trade negotiations

Early September, after the holidays, is when Brussels resumes business. Early on the agenda is whether the EU’s leadership abandons their negotiating strategy for a post-Brexit trade deal, as British PM Boris Johnson ups the pressure.

So far the EU’s negotiators have insisted that the UK must submit to unequal treatment in the relationship (for example, in regulatory policy, state support of industry and dispute resolution) if the UK is to retain some level of trade privilege above World Trade Organisation (WTO) minima.   

Continue reading “A clear UK position puts Brussels under pressure in the EU / UK trade negotiations”

A moment of truth for the EU in the post-Brexit trade talks

Covid, summer holidays and the usual foreign policy rows have overshadowed the EU/UK post-Brexit trade talks.  A pity because this looks like a – perhaps the – key moment, as the ever astute Wolfgang Munchau points out in the Financial Times.

The issue is the EU’s insistence that the UK conform with the EU’s state aid and competition policy – in broad terms, the regime whereby the authorities arbitrate and ensure consistency between the member states’ freedom of action in industry regulation, promotion and subsidy. Continue reading “A moment of truth for the EU in the post-Brexit trade talks”

Special pleading should not  obscure the direction of the UK’s post-Brexit negotiations

The UK car industry has run a good race in the post-Brexit lobbying stakes.  But Britain’s chemical industry looks to be making a late run, if recent coverage in the Financial Times is accurate.

The issue for the industry is the post-Brexit regulatory regime and how this is to be disengaged from the current European model.  The government plans to set up a UK agency to record the safety registrations for industrial chemicals. Continue reading “Special pleading should not  obscure the direction of the UK’s post-Brexit negotiations”