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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
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Interview with New Zealand MP, Todd Muller: CANZUK and More

Todd-Muller

I had the opportunity to speak to Todd Muller, MP for the Bay of Plenty in the North Island of New Zealand, the Opposition National Party's Spokesperson (Shadow Minister) for Trade, Export Growth, and Internal Affairs, and the Former Leader of the Opposition.


We spoke on matters international and domestic, concerning Britons, New Zealanders, and his own constituents, on issues ranging from trade and the opportunities offered by the U.K. joining the CPTPP, the historical links between the U.K. and New Zealand, but also his party's strategy for pursuing closer links with the United Kingdom. Moreover, we were also able to speak on vaccinations in New Zealand and the Labour Government's vaccinations strategy, as well as National's plan for economic recovery.


There is clearly a great deal to learn from New Zealand, both the government and the opposition's policy platforms, and the interview allowed us to discuss some of those questions. From the importance of technology to the recovery process, as well as greater urgency in addressing ways to recovery and re-engage with the world, many issues discussed by Muller were highly relevant to policy solutions here in the UK.


In terms of CANZUK, Muller spoke on how the U.K. joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) would effectively be the most basic form of CANZUK – a preferential trade agreement, as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand are all members of the CPTPP. U.K. Secretary of State for International Trade, the Rt. Hon. Liz Truss, has already applied for the UK to join the CPTPP, as part of the government's post-Brexit agenda of a Global Britain, a free-trading nation. On the UK-NZ FTA negotiations, while Muller stated that it was 'too early to say', he supported a UK that was "connected with the rest of the world" and "a long-term trajectory towards...trade liberalisation". Reaffirming his party's support for a Global Britain.


While it was "early days in the negotiation", Muller stated that his concern, were he to take a political stance on it, was his Labour opposite number, Trade and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, and "recent comments", which Muller says didn't cover himself in glory, likely describing the Minister's recent comments on Australia, which Muller had criticised.


When asked on what National's alternative approach would be, Muller cited urgency, commercialism, and the more business-oriented perspective the centre-right National Party brought to the table.


On questions about National's economic recovery plan and the importance of technology, Muller criticised what he saw as the 'business as usual' approach from the Labour Government, which 'simply won't cut it'. He cited the many New Zealanders coming back to a COVID-safe country and the human skills and capital they bring, and thus the need for more opportunities, which technology, he says will provide. Muller reiterated his party's pledge to 'establish a Ministry for Technology', demonstrating the party's commitment to developing and providing opportunities to global talent and becoming a world hub.


We also had the opportunity to discuss matters closer to home, such as New Zealand's domestic vaccination strategy. We discussed the leaked N.Z. Ministry of Health report from late January which effectively showed that the Labour Government were 300,000 vaccinations behind schedule. This was raised in Ministerial Question Time by Muller's frontbench colleague Chris Bishop MP, Nationals' Covid-19 Spokesperson to Bishop's Labour opposite number, Leader of the House and Education Minister Chris Hipkins. This is a reminder that keeping COVID numbers low for the time being and getting a nation vaccinated and returned to normal (hopefully) for the long-term remains two different challenges and require different mindsets in politics and governance.


Muller acknowledged and thanked the Bruges Group, saying that "having [the Bruges Group's] perspectives in the public debate are absolutely critical", in both a UK and a New Zealand context. 

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