British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) greets New Zealand
Prime Minister John Key outside 10 Downing Street in
central London. REUTERS/Andrew Winning
Prime Minister John Key came away empty handed after
making his plea to British Prime Minister David Cameron to lift
visa restrictions on New Zealanders wanting to work in the UK.
Mr Key and Mr Cameron met at 10 Downing Street in London
overnight soon after Mr Key arrived from New Zealand.
One of his goals was to try to persuade Mr Cameron to lift
new restrictions on visas for skilled job hunters from New
Mr Cameron's government is aiming to reduce net migration to
below 100,000 at a time of increased migration from the
Visa restrictions have more than halved the number of New
Zealanders moving to Britain for work to about 350 a year.
Those restrictions require people to have a job in the UK
before securing a visa.
Mr Key said he and Mr Cameron agreed people-to-people links
helped sustain and keep vibrant the relationship between the
"In that context, I outlined New Zealand's continued concerns
over immigration restrictions and the air passenger duty
However, after the meeting he acknowledged any changes were
Mr Key did, however, have some high-level support for his
quest from London Mayor Boris Johnson, who Mr Key met after
seeing Mr Cameron.
After that meeting, Mr Johnson said he supported free labour
exchanges between the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Mr Key said New Zealand's priority would now be ensuring that
the remaining travel and work rights were not diluted further
- including the working holidays 'youth mobility' scheme and
ancestry visas for those with British grandparents.
"It's a very tricky situation for [Mr Cameron]. At the end of
the day, immigration is a big issue here. With their position
with Europe they have enormous numbers of people who can
freely and as of right come to the UK and that is putting
stress on their system. So we have to acknowledge that."
The restrictions, put in place in 2010, have meant the number
of skilled migrants going to the UK has almost halved and Mr
Key has described restrictions as "grossly unfair".
Mr Key said the changes meant it was almost impossible for
someone to get a job in the UK from overseas, because UK
employers are also required to prove that they can not
recruit someone in the UK itself and the wider EU first.
However, he acknowledged changes in New Zealand's favour were
unlikely because of the influx from the EU.
Mr Key said other than the immigration niggles and a hefty
$190 departure tax on passengers to New Zealand which he said
was driving down tourist numbers, the relationship with
Britain was strong.
A Free Trade deal with the EU?
Mr Key also pushed New Zealand's case to begin free trade
talks with the EU with Mr Cameron. New Zealand is one of only
about five trading countries which has not begun trade talks
with the EU, partly because the EU has been bogged down in
negotiations with others.
Mr Key said the United Kingdom could help break that stalling
pattern because it was a economically powerful member of the
EU. Although Mr Cameron plans to hold a referendum on
Britain's part in the EU soon, Mr Key said his support for
free trade talks would still carry some weight.
"They are an important member of the EU and any help they can
give us to advance that would be really useful."
He would also raise it with French President Francois
Hollande who he is due to meet next week.
Britain remains one of New Zealand's largest trading
partners, with two-way trade totalling NZ$2.5 billion in the
past year. It is a key destination for exports and the
largest source of international visitors and foreign
Mr Key said the UK was focused on opportunities for closer
engagement in the region, which New Zealand saw as another
thread to its relationship with the UK and Europe.
"We also discussed how we could work together to develop
opportunities in the Asia Pacific region."
Mr Key and Mr Cameron also discussed New Zealand's bid for a
Security Council seat in 2015 and Mr Key said he was hopeful
of the UK's backing, although as a permanent member it was
unlikely to publicly state it.
The pair also spoke about the centenary of the start of World
War I for which numerous commemorations are planned - it was
the first issue Mr Cameron raised, including New Zealand's
part in Gallipoli, as the pair chatted before the
closed-doors meeting began.
Mr Key said later that the war had helped forge the modern
relationship with the United Kingdom.
"That is not something we take for granted.
"In commemorating our shared past, Mr Cameron and I both
agreed we should take every opportunity to ensure the
relationship remains relevant and continues to grow and
After talks with Mr Cameron and British Foreign secretary
William Hague, Mr Key said New Zealand might offer up any
expertise it had dealing with chemical weapons if things
progressed in Syria.
"In the end it will be a solution the UN will be involved in
and New Zealand might, if requested, add support. Anything
that can make sure that the people of Syria are never
subjected to chemical warfare again is really important."
He said there were high hopes the Russia solution for Syria
would come to fruition and Syria would give up its chemical
weapons to the international community.
"That would be a tremendous step for the people of Syria. We
acknowledge the challenges in having that achieved, but it is
a very sensible step forward."
He said there was naturally some scepticism about Syria's
"But what are the other alternatives? None of them are
New Zealand agreed to the UK's request to formally express
its intention to join the Open Government Partnership (OGP)
later this year.
The UK is the current co-chair of the OGP - a group of 58
countries and nine civil society organisations committed to
transparent and open government, combating corruption, and
harnessing new technologies.
- By Claire Trevett of the NZ Herald/additional reporting