Tuesday, 22 January 2019 10:55

Brexit chaos no surprise

Written by  Peter Burke
Mike Petersen. Mike Petersen.

No surprise really: that’s the reaction of NZ’s agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen to the rejection last week by the British Parliament of Theresa May’s Brexit proposal.

He says it was well signalled that the vote was not going to go through but few predicted the scale by which it was rejected.

Petersen told Dairy News that he’s always believed the vote wouldn’t pass its first reading and would force the UK and Europe to seek other concessions to get a deal across the line.

“This sends a big message to Brussels and London that they need to do more, in particular try to address the Irish backstop issue which seems to be the big sticking point. I don’t have any answers for that, but they need to provide some assurance on it.

“I am not surprised at what’s happened and I have always said this was going to go down to the wire and that’s exactly what’s happened,” he says.

Petersen says that with no deal in sight as the March 29 exit deadline looms, there is a chance the process could be delayed. But both the ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ sides want a decision as soon as possible so they can move on.

“I would be surprised if they pushed out the Brexit date. I think it’s more likely they will hold to March 29 because if you push it out to June all that does is delay the inevitable and if anything makes things harder. The divisiveness that would occur in the UK would just cause more pain, so at this stage I believe they will stick with March 29.”

During the Brexit debate last week there was more talk about holding another referendum, but Petersen believes this is unlikely.

“It would be crippling for the UK and would tear it apart and so I think another referendum is unlikely,” he says.

While UK politicians try to sort out the Brexit mess there is nothing NZ can do except sit and watch. Petersen says the matter is in the hands of the decisionmakers in Brussels and London.

The good news is that the kerfuffle over Brexit does not affect NZ’s negotiations for an FTA with the EU.

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