Wellington, July 25, 2019
Flamboyant, seasoned, colourful and “buffoon-like” – all words used to describe the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson by New Zealand politicians.
Surprisingly, the “buffoon” comment came from Simon Bridges, Leader of the National Party, which is on the same side of politics as the British Conservatives.
“Mercurial, perhaps … this is a guy who can be on, who can be off, he’s got that buffoon-like quality…”
He was interrupted by a journalist asking him if he had really just called the new British PM a buffoon – “millions have”, replied Mr Bridges.
Smart and Impressive
“But I think what’s also true is he’s very impressive, and there’s much more to him than that, very smart.”
He was asked what he meant by “buffoon-like”.
“It just means someone who sometimes gets a bit of marmalade on his chin, who sometimes doesn’t quite say the right thing, whose personal life is interesting.”
Not a Buffoon, but Seasoned
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she wouldn’t use the word buffoon but instead described Mr Johnson as “seasoned”.
Her job, she said, was to work with whoever was in charge.
“He knows New Zealand well and that at least is a really positive starting point for our relationship, that he has that familiarity.”
She texted him this morning saying “Kia Ora Boris” and got one back “Kia Ora Jacinda.”
Personal views aside, the main concern is Mr Johnson’s determination to take Britain out of the European Union by the end of October – deal or no deal – and what that would mean for countries like New Zealand.
The UK cannot formally sign trade deals until it leaves the EU, but it has already been talking to New Zealand about preparations for a future FTA.
Trade Minister David Parker said that New Zealand’s position was unchanged.
“Until they complete their terms of their divorce from the European Union, neither we nor they can complete a free trade agreement, but as soon as that is clarified we’ll be rushing at that.”
Ms Ardern said the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU with no deal was concerning.
“We really were amongst the first cab off the rank for a trade agreement, in a scenario where there’s an orderly Brexit,” she said.
“Unfortunately a no-deal Brexit means there will be, let’s be honest, a certain amount of chaos and no-one benefits from that.”
Ms Ardern has not met Boris Johnson but expects to do so at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
Jane Patterson is Political Editor at Radio New Zealand. The above Report and Picture have been published under a Special Arrangement with www.rnz.co.nz