Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett: Bill English quick to get onside with Theresa May

Bill English and Theresa May. Photos / Marty Melville, AP
Bill English and Theresa May. Photos / Marty Melville, AP

Prime Minister Bill English would have been entitled to feel quite cock-a-hoop when he rolled up to 10 Downing St for his meeting with Theresa May early this morning.

The Times newspaper has run a joint opinion piece from English and May in which they pledged their troth to one another by vowing to sign a free trade agreement once May had triggered Brexit and removed Britain from the European Union.

The speed with which New Zealand pelted up the aisle the minute the UK announced it was to be single was almost unseemly. But it paid off.

The opinion piece talked up the possibility of a Commonwealth trade area as well as committing to a bilateral New Zealand - UK agreement.

In it the leaders say that, as Britain prepares to leave the European Union, "we are determined to open a new and exciting chapter in the close friendship between our two countries".

That will involve working towards a "bold" new UK-NZ Free Trade Agreement. And, while the UK is part of the EU, it will continue to support an EU-NZ FTA.

It was likely at this point of the discussion that things started to get a bit hairy for English and May at that meeting - for English would have also pushed for immigration rights as well as trade. New Zealanders have become collateral damage in the UK's drive to peg back migrant numbers - and Home Secretary Amber Rudd is now talking about even more changes that will affect New Zealanders.

So English will be flogging a dead horse. Nonetheless, he will be quite happy with the doggy bag he will get sent back to New Zealand with.

His Europe dance card was full of big wigs and they all made the right noises - from May to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker who said a free trade agreement could be done in two to three years.

It might only be noise with English as the piggy in the middle while the UK and the rest of the EU both try to prove to each other that they will not be paralysed by Brexit.

But English will be a happy little piggy if all that noise does translate into trade deals.

- NZ Herald

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Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor and joined the Press Gallery in 2007. She began with the Herald in 2003 as the Northland reporter before moving to Auckland where her rounds included education and media. A graduate of AUT's post-graduate diploma in journalism, Claire began her journalism career in 2002 at the Northern Advocate in Whangarei. Claire has conjoint Bachelor of Law/ Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Canterbury.

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