How Brexit could affect NZers

By Moana Makapelu Lee

Former NZ Labour Party General Secretary Tim Barnett says it could be much harder for New Zealanders seeking employment in Europe if Britain leaves the European Union.

Today UK MPs rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal leaving the future of the country up in the air.

Barnett, who has worked with the EU, says there could be a range of implications for NZ if the UK exits the union.

"If Britain leaves it means that New Zealanders lack the opportunity to work so easily in Europe and we're still yet to see what a final deal will look like in that respect.  Long-term they say it's going to be easier for New Zealanders to get [work] and I doubt that."

A study by the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College found immigration and sovereignty were the two main reasons 51% of British citizens voted to leave the EU.

Barnett says, "At the end of the day it's about Britain being for the British people and that I think for Māori makes it a fascinating debate, what does nationhood mean?  Is it about England?  Is it about Britain?  Is it about Europe?  Is it about the Commonwealth? There's all these different identities flying around in this debate."

According to the UK's 2011 census, just under 60,000 New Zealanders reside in the UK.  Barnett says Kiwis are already feeling the pressures from the Brexit vote.

“It depends on their immigration status because ironically in the last few years it’s become tougher for particularly young New Zealanders to go and work in Britain for a period.  It used to be quite easy to do that and carry on and make a career there and now a lot of young people are doing a couple years OE and are having to come back because of the visa rules.”

On Wednesday morning UK MPs rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal by a historic tally of 432 to 202.  May now has three days to come up with a Plan B before Britain's scheduled exit from the EU on March 29.