Brexit making it harder for Kiwis in UK, after all

Boris Johnson and Murray McCully (AAP)
Boris Johnson and Murray McCully (AAP)

It seems Brexit will make it even harder for New Zealanders to scrape back their rights in the United Kingdom despite the new Foreign Secretary previously campaigning to make it easier.

The clampdown on Kiwis living and working in the UK came up when Boris Johnson met our Foreign Minister in London.

But Britain exiting the EU is now the only game in town.

"Nice to see you," said Mr Johnson when he met Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

But it wasn't so nice that Mr McCully couldn't convince Mr Johnson to be nicer to us.

"Expecting to somehow miraculously go to the top of the queue in terms of meeting our concerns is just not realistic," said Mr McCully.

In the past, as London's infamous mayor, Mr Johnson talked a big game when it came to New Zealanders' rights in the UK - he wanted free movement, similar to what we have with Australia.

Instead the UK did the opposite, making it harder and more expensive. Then Brexit happened, and will keep happening for years.

"I think those are issues which sit well behind many of the other big issues that the UK has to deal with," said Mr McCully.

Brexit is perhaps bad timing for New Zealand trade too. Trade's now the big-buck issue, with our UK High Commissioner conveniently a former Trade Minister, but he's being sent home early.

Lockwood Smith is expected to be replaced by the Governor-General in January.

Mr McCully is on a charm offensive, meeting powerful countries, including Russia, the UK and France, ahead of our final UN Security Council presidency next month and Helen Clark's showdown for the UN top job.

Mr McCully says the Government will stick by Ms Clark's bid: "We've made it clear any decision to review her candidature is a decision for her."

Mr McCully's big goals while on the council have been peace in the Middle East and UN reform. Now he wants to tackle the Syria crisis.

But even with our seat on the Security Council, New Zealand is hardly a major player. Mr McCully's goals have been admiral, but also lofty and idealistic.

New Zealand can't be accused of failing to try; it could be accused of empty moral rhetoric.