If Brexit the Musical is ever staged, casting of characters won't be hard given the performances so far of leading players.

Brexit the Musical

: Someone is bound to be working on it right now.

There have certainly been enough twists of plot, intrigue and conflict just in the past week to ensure a long West End run.

The world is variously entranced, horrified and entertained as this political drama around Britain's vote to leave the EU unfolds.


Lead Brexiteer Nigel Farage delivered the most graceless, petulant victory speech when he told his fellow members of the European Parliament in Brussels most of them had never done a proper job. He makes Donald Trump look positively mannerly.

Not even New Zealand's most audacious of politicians, Winston Peters, would have been so galling.

Peters met Farage in London during the referendum campaign. Farage went to a function at the House of Lords where Peters had been invited to speak by supporters of Leave.

Peters questioned the "extraordinary claims" about the costs to the UK economy of leaving the EU and like Farage, presenting an alternative post-exit scenario that involved a Commonwealth trade pact.

It was an utterly fanciful idea promoted by Boris Johnson and the Leave campaign to suggest the once-great British Empire could reinvent a powerful economic position for itself at the centre of the Commonwealth, which is already struggling for relevancy.

The Commonwealth will be lucky to survive the death of the Queen, let alone Brexit. The variations of economic development within the Commonwealth are so diverse, any effort to get agreement among 53 countries would be better directed to upgrading World Trade Organisation agreements.

In his Lords speech, Peters also questioned the notion that leaders of other countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States had expressed a view about a British exit.

Perhaps he thought expressing views was the privilege only of politicians without power or of politicians who supported an exit.

The fact is, the old rules should not apply. The impact of a Brexit is so profound that leaders outside the EU were not only entitled but were obliged to give their view. It can hardly be called interference to express a view.

British High Commissioner Jonathan Sinclair told a panel discussion in Wellington on Thursday that there was no doubt the EU referendum result was up there with the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11 as the most climactic events for the UK in his lifetime (post World War II). The interest in New Zealand is evidenced by the fact that the seminar, hosted by the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs with two days notice, was a full house with more than 300 attendees.

The Commonwealth will be lucky to survive the death of the Queen, let alone Brexit.


The vote to leave the EU has led to conundrums of such spectacular complexity and irony that watching the news feels like watching an HBO thriller.

House of Cards allusions abounded yesterday after Johnson announced he would not be standing as Conservative leader and Prime Minister.

He was apparently stitched up by Brexiter Cabinet minister Michael Gove who once offered to write in blood that he never wanted to be Prime Minister and was not up to the job. Johnson's father, Stanley, who campaigned against his son to Remain in Europe, likened Gove to Brutus who betrayed Julius Caesar.

The notion of passing a law to require Johnson to become Prime Minister so he is forced to deal with the consequences of his campaign to take Britain out of Europe to boost his ambitions has some appeal. But Theresa May looks set to have an early advantage after setting out some clear principles around which an exit would be negotiated: no second referendum, no general election until 2020, no Article 50 notice to leave the EU until the end of the year, no deal that includes the continued free movement of people and an expectation that a deal would take several years to negotiate.

"I know I'm not a showy politician," she said in a veiled reference to Johnson who had yet to make his announcement.

"I don't tour all the television studios. I don't gossip about people over lunch. I don't go drinking in Parliament's bars. I don't often wear my heart on my sleeve. I just get on with the job in front of me."

While the vicar's daughter talked knowledgeably about the plight of the poor, old Etonian Johnson spoke about giving them a ladder "up which they can climb". How terrific.

The New Zealand Government was undoubtedly hoping that Johnson would join the contest and win the Prime Ministership.

Not only does he have personal contacts within the National Party, but he has advocated for better access for people and trade.

As Home Secretary, May has been the one saying no - although Sinclair told the NZIIA that Britain issued more work visas per capita for New Zealand than any other country.

The right to live and work there for five years if a grandparent was born in the UK still exists, as does the youth mobility scheme allowing 18-to-30-years olds two years of work.

The scheme has been increased by 1000 to 12,000 places but only 4000 Kiwis took it up last year.

Trade is the crucial issue.

It is in New Zealand's interests for the EU-UK trade deal to be the cleanest possible, because that will only help the ensuing bilateral deals the EU has with New Zealand and the UK has with New Zealand.

That is why it is New Zealand's interests for Britain to upskill its trade negotiating expertise, and why New Zealand stands ready to receive any request for assistance on that front.

May has injected some order into the chaos of the past week although there is not much she can do to help Labour.

The Guardian yesterday summed up its plight with an instantly classic headline: "Labour MPs divided over how to depose Corbyn".

In Brexit the Musical, Labour will have a supporting role only - or should that be non-supporting.

Top billing will go to the former schoolboy rivals Prime Minister David Cameron and Boris Johnson who between them have concocted their own Eton mess.