Jacinda Ardern, Boris Johnson to discuss extension to key visa scheme, 'security challenges in Indo-Pacific'

After a flurry of meetings with world leaders on the sidelines of the NATO summit and a fleeting visit to Brussels for the final NZ-EU free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is in London for a sit-down with Boris Johnson.

The pair, who are well-acquainted and were both at the NATO event in Spain earlier this week, will hold talks at 10 Downing St on Friday night (NZT). Prior to her Europe trip, Ardern said the leaders would "reconnect our two countries’ close links" and provide updates on progress made since the signing of the NZ-UK FTA earlier this year.

According to a press release issued by the British Prime Minister's Office on Friday, they will discuss "the security challenges facing the Indo-Pacific and the situation in Ukraine, as well as new initiatives to build on our shared value and long-standing close ties". 

The leaders will also "agree new joint schemes to ensure New Zealand and the UK can address global challenges for the next generation".

The British statement said that will include an extension to the Youth Mobility Scheme. The UK's scheme currently allows foreigners to live and work in the UK for up to two years if they are aged between 18 and 30 and from one of several countries, including New Zealand. 

The extension, previewed by 10 Downing St, would see the age limit raised and length of visas increased to allow "highly skilled and ambitious young people to move between the two countries easily, sharing skills and innovative ideas between the two countries".

Last October, when New Zealand secured an FTA with the UK, Ardern said the two countries had committed to "mobility dialogue" outside of the deal, including by working to "extend and improve" existing visa arrangements.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and British leader Boris Johnson.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and British leader Boris Johnson. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Ardern and Johnson are also expected to sign a "landmark science and innovation arrangement" that will bring "UK and New Zealand researchers and technology experts together to inspire ground-breaking science".

Johnson said that while New Zealand is one of the UK's "most distant allies", it's also among "our closest friends". 

"We share a world view, standing up for democracy and free trade around the world, which is fortified by deep bonds of language and culture," the British Prime Minister said. 

"The partnership between the UK and New Zealand makes both of our countries safer and more prosperous. We are working side-by-side to address new and evolving threats that threaten to undermine stability and sovereignty in Europe and the Indo-Pacific. 

"Our trade deal is slashing red tape, cutting tariffs and opening exciting new opportunities for British businesses and entrepreneurs to travel and trade. And now our scientists are working together to solve humanity's toughest challenges."

He said he looked forward to welcoming Ardern to Downing St "to take this alliance of old friends forward and meet the challenges and opportunities of the future".

Among the other items on the pair's agenda is a commitment to work closely on online safety, as well as trade ties. The UK is in the process of accession into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Last week, the Government introduced the UK FTA Legislation Bill into the House, which will enable New Zealand to fulfil its obligations under the trade deal signed in March. It hopes the ratification process will be completed by the end of the year.

While in London, Ardern will also meet with Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and give a foreign policy speech at the Chatham House think-tank.

Two-way trade between the UK and New Zealand was worth $6 billion in the year to March 2020, making it New Zealand's seventh-largest trading partner pre-COVID.