19 Sep 2013

Key begins Europe trip at Downing St

11:29 am on 19 September 2013

Prime Minister John Key has held meetings in London with his British counterpart David Cameron at the start of a 12-day visit to Britain, France and New York.

Mr Key says Europe is vital to New Zealand's future prosperity and security. His first day in London reflected that stance.

David Cameron and John Key outside Downing Street.

David Cameron and John Key outside Downing Street. Photo: POOL / NZ HERALD

He went straight from the airport to No. 10 Downing Street to hold talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, then went on to meet with Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region and maintaining the strong UK-New Zealand relationship were on the agenda.

Mr Key says New Zealand has a tremendous relationship with the United Kingdom and it is extremely broad and deep.

"But there are just a couple of small, domestic issues that we're trying to deal with," he says.

One of those issues is visa restrictions, which have hit New Zealanders wanting to live and work in Britain.

London mayor Boris Johnson, who is a supporter of easing the restrictions, says Britain has betrayed Commonwealth countries in favour of the European Union.

"I do think it is a bit of an oddity that we have this unbelievably close relationship with New Zealand ... but as far as I understand the matter it it quite difficult sometimes for New Zealanders who want to work here to stay on and contribute in the way that they might," he says.

Figures show just over 4500 New Zealand citizens moved to Britain permanently or for the long-term last year. That number is down from nearly 12,500 thirteen years ago.

Mr Key says he thinks it is a very tricky situation, as immigration is a big issue in Britain. He raised the issue with Mr Cameron, who he thinks is "genuinely passionate about New Zealand".

He says one of the important things is to preserve the existing rights New Zealanders have.

This weekend, Mr Key and his family will make a private visit to join Queen Elizabeth at the royal residence of Balmoral in Scotland.

The visit was postponed in 2010 because of the Canterbury earthquakes.

Mr Key will travel to France on Sunday, before attending the opening week of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where topics including Syria are likely to be a key focus.