UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has reassured New Zealand expats that they will not be negatively affected once Britain leaves the EU.

"Brexit is not, was not, and will not be about Britain turning away from the world," he said after bilateral talks in Wellington today.

The talks focused primarily on post-Brexit challenges, in particular a swift conclusion of a free trade agreement once Britain had quit the EU, and the rights of Kiwis to travel to and work in the UK.

Speaking at a press conference at the Beehive, New Zealand Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee said he and Johnson had agreed to launch a forum to discuss "how we can improve opportunities that exist for our citizens to live and work in each others' countries".

Advertisement

Johnson said he hoped the forum would further strengthen the bilateral relationship, "if that were possible". Asked whether New Zealanders could get improved access to the UK post-Brexit, Johnson insisted that leaving the EU was not about being hostile to immigrants or foreign workers.

Once Brexit happened, the UK would not make life any more difficult for Kiwis, he said.

"On the contrary, we love Kiwis coming to our country and it makes a huge difference to our economy that we have people with talent and ambition who want to come, even if it's only for a short time."

He wanted the post-Brexit regime for ancestry and working visas to be "at least as attractive as the current regime", he said.

Johnson reiterated that New Zealand would be "at or near the front of the queue" for a free trade deal once the UK formally left the EU, likely to be in two years' time.

Asked how he would appease British farmers who were wary about such a deal, Johnson said "no one is going to be any worse off".

"We already are the proud and grateful recipients of a lot of New Zealand sheepmeat and indeed butter. I think my grandmother would buy absolutely nothing else but Anchor butter, I want you to know."

He dismissed a suggestion that infighting within his Conservative Party could undermine any progress towards a free trade deal in the two years before Brexit took place. Any conflict within the party had "completely passed me by", he said, and he had heard no news of infighting while on his travels.

Advertisement

He admitted that the recent general election "did not evolve entirely in the way that the Government had hoped or wanted", while adding that "the Labour Party did not win" and the Conservative government was "getting on with the business of governing".

Johnson was greeted by a shout of "Boris for PM" at a ceremony in Wellington yesterday, and was asked today about the prospects of taking over Theresa May as Prime Minister.

"I don't know whether you were as eagle-eyed as I was at that wonderful ceremony yesterday, but I also spotted a protestor who took a diametrically opposite view."

There was no public appetite in Britain for "any more political kerfuffle", he added.

In his opening remarks, Johnson praised the closeness of the British and New Zealand governments, saying there was a "total failure to disagree on any point of substance" on trade, security or other issues.

"These are two countries which really do think on the same lines on so many views that matter to our people and to our electorates."

Security issues were on the agenda during today's talks, and Brownlee said the two countries were united in their condemnation of North Korean "provocations".

"I reaffirmed to Foreign Secretary Johnson that New Zealand will continue to support international efforts to bring security to the region."

Brownlee expressed sympathy to his British counterpart over the recent series of terror attacks in the UK, and said New Zealand was committed to the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State.

The Foreign Minister also referred to the recent Lions tour of New Zealand, saying the warmth between the two countries was "very much on display", while noting that the tied series left both sides "somewhat perplexed".