The British people have voted to leave the European Union. For New Zealand, nothing will change in the short term. The Government is paying close attention to the withdrawal process as it unfolds.


What's happened?

On 23 June 2016, the UK held a referendum asking voters “should the UK remain a member of the EU, or leave the EU?” Almost 52% of the electorate voted to Leave, while 48% voted to Remain. The turnout of 72% was the highest in a general poll since 1992.

What happens now?

In the short term, nothing will change. The UK remains a member of the EU and the withdrawal process will take some time. No state has left the EU before, so it is still unclear how the process will work.

Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union provides a general framework to negotiate a withdrawal. It starts with the state concerned formally notifying the EU of its intention to withdraw. The UK has not yet done this.

Once Article 50 is invoked, negotiations will begin between the UK and EU to reach an agreement on the new shape of the relationship.

The treaty allows for negotiations to take up to two years. During this time, it is expected the UK would remain a full EU member, under the existing arrangements, with its rights and obligations continuing to apply.

The negotiating period could be extended beyond two years, but only if all the remaining EU Members agree.

What will the UK’s new relationship with the EU look like?

We are unlikely to know this for some time. It will depend on the outcome of the withdrawal negotiations between the UK and the EU.

What is the New Zealand Government doing?

We are paying close attention to how the Brexit process unfolds, to ensure New Zealand’s interests are maintained and advanced.

New Zealand has strong relationships with the EU and UK and these will continue. The New Zealand Prime Minister, ministers and government officials will continue to work closely with the EU and the UK.

The timing of any discussions on our long-term interests will be affected by a number of factors, including the progress made in the UK-EU negotiations.

Trade and economic

What will happen to trade between New Zealand and the UK? What about New Zealand trade with the rest of the EU?

In the immediate future, there will be no change. The UK remains a member of the EU and the same rules will continue to apply to our trade with the UK and EU. These include the EU’s World Trade Organization commitments, which cover the UK.

In the longer term, it will take the UK and EU time to work through the implications of the decision to leave and to put new trading arrangements in place.

Although there is no precedent for a member state exiting the EU, it is likely that any potential changes will be well foreshadowed.

If the UK and EU wish to change current arrangements with New Zealand, we would expect to be part of any re-negotiations with the UK and the EU.

What will happen to the EU-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement? Will we negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK?

New Zealand will continue to maintain and build on the quality and value of our economic relationships with both the UK and the EU.

We will continue to work towards the opening of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with the EU. The process agreed to by Prime Minister John Key and EU Presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk in October 2015 is well on track, and remains New Zealand’s priority.

In the future, we may look to negotiate some form of FTA with the UK once it is in a position to do so.

What does this mean for my business?

In the immediate future there will be no change to the rules covering our trade with the UK and EU (see questions above for further detail). You will know best how to interpret the effect of market fluctuations on your business.

The New Zealand Government is paying close attention to how the process unfolds, taking into account the interests of New Zealand businesses.

Broader relationship

What will happen to our broader relationship with the UK?

The UK will remain a close, fundamental partner for New Zealand.

On issues such as defence, security and immigration, apart from the soon-to-be-signed EU-New Zealand Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation, the bilateral relationship between New Zealand and the UK is not linked in any formal way with the UK’s EU membership.

These issues are either bilateral or are governed by arrangements separate from the EU. 

Will New Zealanders on British passports still be able to live/work in the EU?

The UK Government has said that nothing will change in the short term for British passport-holders living, working, and travelling in the EU, including New Zealanders with British passports.

Further queries about British passports should be referred to the UK Government.