Q+A: Sir Lockwood Smith interviewed by Emma Keeling
Q+A: Sir Lockwood Smith interviewed by Emma Keeling
Outgoing HC urges Kiwi farmers to work with British counterparts
Smith said on Q+A this morning that Kiwi farmers should not
worry about a free trade deal with Britain.
The 68-year-old has been in London for three years and will shortly leave his post as New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
“I spoke at the Welsh National Farmers Unions Conference last year. I said, ‘If we keep seeing each other – we sheep farmers – as the competition, chicken will be the winner.’ You know, we’ve got to understand we have to work together. If we’re to expand the consumption of lamb, which is what we want to do here in the UK and Europe, we need to work together, and we can. Our seasons are diametrically opposed. We can actually do a lot working together.”
He also spoke about his admiration for the Royal Family.
On the Queen and the Duke of Cambridge he said, “You know, at their age, they’re engaged, and they spend so much time with people.”
“I’m almost the same age as Prince Charles. I’m one day older. And so on my birthday, I normally write to him to wish him a happy birthday for the next day, and he always writes back, and we share a few things about getting old.”
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SIR LOCKWOOD SMITH
Interviewed by EMMA KEELING
LOCKWOOD I think it’s
meant that we’re just that bit closer, and I suppose my
background as a former trade minister and former agriculture
minister has been quite helpful because the UK has found it
quite useful talking to me about, you know, how trade
agreements work, how, what the WTO means, what’s involved
in registering a schedule at the WTO. These kinds of things,
of course, the EU has done for the last 40 years. And so the
UK is now, with Brexit, in a new situation, and I think it
is finding New Zealand’s support useful. We were very,
early on said we would help wherever we could, and we have.
I’ve had our top trade people here in London working with
the government, and I think it’s paying off. I think
we’ve established a trade dialogue with the UK and we’re
in a very good position, when the UK is ready to do it, to
commence negotiating a free-trade agreement with the UK. So
I think we are very well
EMMA Farmers in the UK are very worried about a free-trade agreement with New Zealand. They’re worried what it will do to their industry. Have you been able to allay their fears at all?
LOCKWOOD I think we’ve made a lot of progress in that area. When I arrived here, I think there were significant tensions between you know sheep farmers here – lamb producers, if you like – and the New Zealand lamb access to the UK market. But we’ve done a lot of work on that. I’ve put a lot of time into sharing with the farming organisations here our experience, sharing with them how we might be able to work together more, because I’ve stressed to even the Welsh farmers— I spoke at the Welsh National Farmers Unions Conference last year. I said, ‘If we keep seeing each other – we sheep farmers – as the competition, chicken will be the winner.’ You know, we’ve got to understand we have to work together. If we’re to expand the consumption of lamb, which is what we want to do here in the UK and Europe, we need to work together, and we can. Our seasons are diametrically opposed. We can actually do a lot working together.
EMMA So how do you see this free-trade agreement between Britain and New Zealand taking shape? What could it be worth?
LOCKWOOD Well, for New Zealand, obviously it’s hugely important because the UK is still a very important market for New Zealand. It’s our fifth-biggest trading partner, the United Kingdom. And so too is the EU. Our top priority at the moment is our free-trade agreement with the EU that we seek to commence negotiation this year, and everything looks on course for that. And that’s really important to us, but we also want to be ready when the UK is able to start negotiating on free trade agreements; we want to make sure we’re at the front end of the queue, not further back, and we’ve put a lot of work into making sure we are up there with the leaders that the UK is looking to work with.
EMMA You are the cheeriest of cheerleaders for New Zealand and New Zealanders over here, but there is one topic that’s come up a lot is the immigration and how the visa restrictions are getting tighter and tighter. Has that disappointed you as they have become so tight? Because I know you’ve been working hard behind the scenes.
LOCKWOOD We’ve worked hard on it because it’s hugely important to New Zealand. Access to the United Kingdom for skilled New Zealanders is just so important. We’ve got a wonderful access for our young people through the Youth Mobility programme, which sees 2000 or 3000 up here. But it’s that skilled New Zealand situation. I think we’ve got to be realistic that while we’ve worked hard on it, the UK has not said, ‘Look, we don’t care.’ They do care. But the problem is they’ve had an issue that they’ve had to deal with that they haven’t got control over their borders. And that’s part of the Brexit issue – that they wanted to get control over immigration policy, if you like. Once they do get control over immigration policy, I think we should have the chance to revisit this issue, because the government’s not saying here that it doesn’t care; the government is always looking for – ‘How can we find a way to deal with this issue?’ And they can’t pick New Zealand out, much as some of them might want to, and say, ‘We’ll do this deal for New Zealand.’ Their own laws won’t let them do that. And so we have to be a little bit patient, and but, believe me, we’ll keep very focused on this because it’s important for New Zealand and New Zealanders. And the UK knows that. The government knows that. And I think at the right time, we’ll be working on it again.
EMMA You’ve had a lot to do with royals in your time here. Have you seen their popularity grow? I mean, are they still relevant?
LOCKWOOD It’s been a fascinating experience, as you say, and I suppose, just in a word, my admiration for them—I’ve always been one who admired Her Majesty for a long time, but my admiration for the entire family has gone up hugely as I’ve become more aware of the work they do. I mean, Her Majesty and Prince Philip recently were at the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey – there an hour. You know, at their age, they’re engaged, and they spend so much time with people. And, you know, there’s lovely little things I often I— I’m almost the same age as Prince Charles. I’m one day older. And so on my birthday, I normally write to him to wish him a happy birthday for the next day, and he always writes back, and we share a few things about getting old.
EMMA What does he reckon? Is he enjoying it as much as you are?
LOCKWOOD I can’t divulge the confidences of anyone in the royal family.
EMMA What will be your final song that you’ll sing on these shores?
LOCKWOOD Probably ‘Po Atarau’, which, of course, is ‘Now is the Hour’.
EMMA Yeah. Are you happy to go back to the farm?
LOCKWOOD Oh yes, absolutely.
EMMA Would you like to get back into politics at all?
LOCKWOOD No way at all. No way at all. I think it’s a huge mistake for people to ever think they should go back to politics. Never. I’ve done what I could do, and I’m very happy to move on.