Waning Kiwi rights in UK a sore spot

The British Prime Minister is standing by her decision to crack down on Kiwi expats living in the UK.

Theresa May and Bill English talked about New Zealanders' waning British rights over lunch at Number 10 Downing Street - and when Ms May was later asked about it by Newshub, Mr English's face said it all.

The day was coming together for Mr English on his first overseas trip as Prime Minister - London's major landmarks, the famous black door of Number 10 and lunch with Britain's Prime Minister.

It was almost entirely memorable.

"I just can't quite recall what was on the menu. There were mash potatoes, they were very nice."

The snowy London day was perfect for making new friends - the city's mayor Sadiq Khan first, then the Queen of Downing Street.

Before her promotion to Prime Minister, Ms May, as Home Secretary, was responsible for constant crack-downs on Kiwi visa rights in the UK.

When asked how she justified chipping away at Kiwi rights, she replied: "We welcome the brightest and best to come to the UK, but it's also important in the UK that we do ensure we get that control."

It's a major sore spot between New Zealand and the UK.

But a cheeky wink from Mr English when it was raised publicly suggests he didn't much mind the awkwardness.

prime minister bill english new zealand united kingdom
Prime Minister Bill English let slip a little wink on the question of Kiwi rights (Newshub.)

So there's still work to go on his poker face, but immigration was raised over lunch.

"We discussed it over lunch and she outlined the British position."

Asked if he expressed disappointment in the position, he said: "Given the context I think it would be quite unreasonable of us to rush getting some movement on the issue".

That context is Brexit - the UK's vote to leave the EU largely over concerns about soaring immigration.

"Much as we'd like them to pay more attention to us I don't expect that we should push Ms May's goodwill too hard on that."

New Zealand and the UK are coiled springs - ready to negotiate a free trade deal as soon as Brexit is underway.

Though any hope of some kind of Commonwealth free trade area with visa benefits for Kiwis - not so fast.

"Look I think that's a fairly adventurous idea."

It was Ms May who spearheaded the erosion of Kiwi rights in the UK, and realistically no matter how much of a fight we put up to defend those rights, the UK will still do what it wants, when it wants.