Flags from a meeting of UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox and MFAT in Wellington (Getty Images)

The Bulletin: No deal Brexit looms for Kiwi businesses

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Brexit No Deal threat looms for Kiwi exporters, students to go on climate strike today, and families of disabled people fear support cuts by stealth.

New Zealand businesses are being told they need to prepare now for the possibility of an imminent no-deal Brexit. The UK is currently on course to crash out of the European Union on the 29th of March – more on the technicalities and permutations of that below. But in the meantime, that could leave exporters in a rather serious spot of bother.

Interest reports major organisations like MFAT and Business NZ have serious concerns about what would the effects of a no deal Brexit would be. Among the advice published by Business NZ, this line is included: “A hard Brexit with no transition raises particular risks for New Zealand food products as greater delays at customs and borders could harm perishable products – at exporters’ risk.” Wine exporters are also considered to be at risk from extra tariffs and hold ups. And it’s not just getting stuff into Britain which is problematic – the NZ Herald’s Liam Dann says currently, a lot of NZ goods go through the UK first, before being redistributed through Europe.

Some of this could be averted in the case of a deal between Britain and the European Union being struck. The problem is though, a deal has actually been struck, but so far Britain’s parliament has repeatedly voted against whatever PM Theresa May has brought back from Brussels – however it has been confirmed that the deal will be voted on again. That means that Article 50 (the clause that was triggered to start the Brexit countdown) could still be extended.

There’s currently a bewildering range of votes going on in Britain’s parliament on both extending Article 50, and the possibility of a second referendum – I say bewildering because listening to BBC’s 5 Live this morning, their hosts were apologising to the audience about the level of complexity they were trying to simplify. The BBC has a live updates page running which will have the latest – unfortunately the House of Commons votes were still going on at the time of publication. Mostly the amendments are being defeated, including the Benn amendment literally at the moment I’m hitting send on this – according to the BBC that would have “allowed MPs to take control of the parliamentary business on March 20, possibly to make time for indicative votes.”

But it may be all for nothing anyway, because the European Union has to agree to any Article 50 extension. And as the Guardian reports, the most hardcore Brexiteers are lobbying nationalistic governments across the continent in a bid to get them to veto any extension – in theory only one of them needs to to block an extension. If that were to happen, then Britain would simply crash out. We should also bear in mind that a No Deal Brexit would be catastrophic for many in Britain – here’s a dramatic report on that from Politics.co.uk.

Finally, it will be slightly out of date because it was written a full 48 hours ago, but Toby Manhire’s guide to Brexit terminology will still be handy for getting your head around what the hell is happening.


The student climate strike is on today, and is expected to draw large crowds across the country (and the world later in the day.) We’ve published a guide with everything you need to know, and also some of the protest veterans in our contact books have some advice for how to make a protest count. But there’s a few important bits of context to all of this.

The first is that there’s expected to be an announcement of a timeline for the Zero Carbon bill today, reports Politik, so we might not know all the details of the legislation, but we will know when we will know them. But the other point – and I think it’s really important to stress this – we have a lot less time to sort this out than we might hope we do. That’s the message of author David Wallace-Wells, who spoke to The Spinoff about his thesis of an increasingly uninhabitable world. So for any adult who looks at today and is inspired to think that perhaps the kids will save us – look at yourself, and look at the people in charge right now. That’s who needs to act.


Families of disabled people fear that support funding is being cut by stealth, they’ve told the NZ Herald. While there has been no formal announcement of a cut from the ministry, families have noticed changes about how money is distributed on a person by person basis – with more reported delays in payments and scrutiny of what they’re paid out for. A revealing quote came from Community Care Trust (CCT) chief executive Mike Brummitt, who said “if someone gets 12 hours, they are saying do you need 10, or eight hours?” The ministry says no formal decisions have been made, and are currently looking at a likely overspend in their budget.


Children in the care of Oranga Tamariki suffered a “disturbing” level of abuse over 2018, reports Stuff. In all, there were 220 incidences of harm being caused to kids in state care, which those who work directly with vulnerable children say was unsurprising. Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft says the figures are utterly unacceptable, but says the deep overhaul of state care services currently underway has the potential to change them.


Supplies of the measles vaccine are being restricted, amid a global shortage, reports Stuff. It means that a mass vaccination plan that had been considered since the Canterbury outbreak has been slowed down and revised. For those with very young children, or people who can’t be vaccinated, that means some trips into public spaces may have to be reconsidered – that’s not to be alarmist or anything, it’s just that measles is highly infectious. New cases have now also been reported in Dunedin and Auckland. If you’re in any doubt, contact your GP.


A man has been arrested on charges of assaulting Green Party co-leader James Shaw, reports Radio NZ. Mr Shaw was walking to work when a man attacked him, punching him in the face. The incident occurred less than a kilometre from parliament. Mr Shaw then continued on to work, before heading to hospital for a precautionary check-up. Politicians from all parties have condemned the attack.


This is an interesting detail about how the heavily-criticised Kiwibuild programme is going. Stuff reports that of the homes that are selling, they’re being sold a lot quicker than those on the market generally. However, if you include the ballot time in the Kiwibuild data, then it becomes roughly comparable. Still, it does change the picture that has been building up of the houses being unwanted by buyers.


I’ve been very impressed this week by the NZ Herald series The Chase, highlighting the various issues and angles around police pursuits. It’s a horribly complex topic of course, and one that cuts across many different aspects of society at once. They’ve published a range of different pieces, but I’ll highlight this one in particular that looks at the factors that go into police decisions as to whether to pursue drivers. It covers the issue by reporting the views of family members of those who ended up losing family members to police chases.


A clarification on yesterday’s piece about Operation Burnham inquiry, regarding proceedings taking place largely behind closed doors. It was more than simply the NZDF arguing for that to be the case, rather that was a Crown view reflecting the various involved parties – so not just the NZDF, but also MFAT, DPMC, SIS, GCSB.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Maria Slade covers a report that shows Auckland has the worst traffic gridlock in Australasia. Alex Casey delves into a brief history of ASA complaints about ads for period products. And Andrew Geddis writes about the various assumptions being made about the SFO probe into National party donations – and crucially outlines what we don’t actually know for sure.


The last editor of the Whanganui Chronicle has left the chair. The paper is part of the NZME stable, though there have long been cuts at pretty much every regional paper that is part of a much wider company. Don’t worry about departing Chronicle editor Mark Dawson – he’ll be fine, he’s got a job in comms. But perhaps do worry about the paper itself, given the role has been disestablished. Here’s an excerpt from Mark Dawson’s so-called obituary:

The Chronicle is, of course, New Zealand’s oldest daily paper, coming up 163 years this September since Henry Stokes published that first edition.

I am the title’s 22nd editor. And the last. Finally, I have scratched a small mark to signify my humble place in the annals of journalistic history.

It has been a privilege to serve.

A former editor on my paper in the northeast of England reminded me that he was only a temporary custodian of the chair. I have always been aware of that.


There has been a lot of debate around cricket circles recently regarding Neil Wagner’s aggressive approach to bowling. Partly that’s because Bangladesh have been so utterly insipid on the field that it creates a void which needs to be filled by literally any other topic. But a lot of fans are deeply uncomfortable with how Wagner barrages the bodies of batsmen. I thought this, from FirstPost, was a really interesting take on it all, because it told the story of how Wagner’s approach actually came about. To sum it up, nothing else was working for him at test level, and now he’s one of the most feared bowlers in the world. Incidentally, the author of that piece, Michael Wagener, runs a side blog that delves deeply into statistical analysis of cricket.


From our partners: Climate change has already affected how electricity gets delivered to customers, and it’s only going to get more challenging. Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha outlines what the lines company is doing to respond.


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