Murray McCully offers Britain help with looming Brexit trade negotiations

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has offered Britain any help New Zealand can give to assist its post-Brexit negotiations - and isn't ruling out giving them the use of our top trade negotiators.

He also floated the possibility of Britain choosing to rapidly sign a "symbolic" free trade agreement with New Zealand.

"We had a discussion with the [British] High Commissioner on Monday, and we've simply made an offer that we as a country that is a long standing friend ... stands ready to be useful in any way we can be," Mr McCully said.

"I'm not going to try and forecast what requests they might make, I'm simply saying that they will be looking to put in place a whole new series of relationships and arrangements to replace the EU relationships they have.

"They might for example see the benefit in a quick FTA with New Zealand to have a symbolic and demonstration effect - those are the sorts of areas that we are talking about."

Mr McCully said his discussions with the British High Commissioner may have led to a report in The Telegraph that New Zealand had offered to loan staff to the UK, which has few trade negotiators of its own.

Asked by the Herald for comment on that report, Trade Minister Todd McClay - who is in Chile - this morning said that offers of loaning staff "are not currently on the table given the range of trade negotiation commitments New Zealand is currently managing".

Mr McCully said his position did not contradict that stance.

"We are simply saying to the UK, 'you have got a large job of work ahead of you, tell us what we can do to be helpful'.

"[Loaning negotiators] is something that we will wait and see. I'm not going to try and help the UK what their needs are ... we will obviously look at what they ask us for and whether we have it."

Lord Price, the British minister for trade and investment, has said that the British Government has around 40 trade negotiators, compared with the 550 employed by the EU. Whitehall has outsourced trade powers to Brussels for 43 years, meaning that the number of negotiators employed by Government has dwindled.

Sajid Javid, the British secretary of state for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said Whitehall would increase the number of negotiators it had available over time.

He said: "That process has already begun, and I'm very confident that we can get the right resources in place so we can take advantage of those opportunities that have been created."

- with Daily Telegraph

- NZ Herald

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