Monday, 26 June 2017

NZIIA Seminar: 'An Outsider’s View From the Inside on Current British Politics'.

Just like, and prior to, their U.S. counterparts, the United Kingdom were hit with their own bombs in the form of the referendum of the U.K. leaving the European Union, which was issued on 23rd June 2016, and the recent general election in June. Which resulted in a hung parliament, which saw the conservative party losing the number of seats from 330 to 318. These factors raised a fundamental question: What is the future of the U.K. and the E.U.? To answer this important was last night’s speaker Sir Lockwood Smith. By the end of the seminar, the answer was as speculative and uncertain as the future of the U.K. and the E.U.

Throughout, Sir Lockwood addresses the turmoil that has befallen onto the world, especially the U.K., the uncertain future of Brexit and its possible consequences, and the dramatic backfire of Theresa May, who advocated for a "strong and stable" leadership that can successfully negotiate a "hard Brexit", which was originally intended for her to consolidate her power following David Cameron’s resignation. In addition, discussing the Labour Party’s surge of popularity, thought to be left for dead under the new leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, after these cataclysmic events. 

During the Q&A, an interesting question was raised among a list of interesting questions, How will these recent events affect New Zealand and in particular, the Republic of Ireland? Sir Lockwood answered that New Zealand advocated that the United Kingdom remain in a "reformed" E.U., however David Cameron didn’t succeed in doing so. Even though he performed well on the economics front in preventing the UK from sliding into a deep recession, his legacy has been tarnished by the Brexit results. He continued that the Republic of Ireland on the other hand under their new leadership has been playing things very wisely since the situation in regards to the border with Northern Ireland has been troublesome to say the least in the last century. Sir Lockwood advocated a need for "smart politics" and not for "dumb politics" to rise (the latter can lead to catastrophic results – also fuelled by populism). Sir Lockwood’s outlook on NZ’s future – the most prosperous nation in the world right now since our industries are not regulated (regulation means falling behind competition) – a bit of a naïve and too optimistic outlook since the country is suffering from a brain drain.

For more information regarding Sir Lockwood Smith, his initial careers included agriculture (with a Ph.D. in Animal Science, he worked at the Dairy Board), academia (as a lecturer at Massey University) and the media (as a TV presenter). He entered Parliament in 1984. He was at various times the Minister for each of Education, Agriculture, Tourism and International Trade, and Associate Minister for Finance and for Immigration. His achievements include promoting the 100% Pure tourism campaign, spearheading New Zealand’s efforts at the 1999 APEC negotiations, and conceiving and initiating the negotiations with Singapore for a new-model Free Trade Agreement that morphed into the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks. From 2008 to 2013, he was the Speaker of the House. From 2013 to 2017, he was High Commissioner in London. He has recently become a patron of the British New Zealand Business Association.

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