Key meets UK Prime Minister

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 08:05 06/06/2012
SAY CHEESE: Prime Minister John Key and wife Bronagh flank British PM David Cameron outside No. 10 Downing St.
Reuters

SAY CHEESE: Prime Minister John Key and wife Bronagh flank British PM David Cameron outside No. 10 Downing St.

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What do you do when you visit mates overseas? Take them New Zealand wine of course - and books and toys for the kids.

When Prime Minister John Key dined with his British counterpart David Cameron at Number 10 Downing Street early this morning New Zealand time he arrived bearing gifts including a presentation box of New Zealand wine, which included Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc and Martinborough Pinot Noir.

There was also a goody bag for the Cameron kids - books including Sunny Saturday Morning, Hair McClary from Donaldson's Dairy and JK Baxter Poetry for children. There was also Merino clothing from BabyBundles, and - what else - an iconic Buzzy Bee toy.

Key also arrived in Britain with a gift of cheese for the Queen. "She loves cheese," Key said.

Key issued an invitation to Cameron to visit New Zealand - and hopes to take him to Antarctica.

Key said Cameron has been forced to postpone a previous visit but still wanted to make it down under.

Cameron had previously visited the North Pole and "loved it up there".

"There is a chance I'll go to Antarctica next year so I'll issue an invitation to there; obviously the issues are that the weather is notoriously a little unstable and you can get stuck; it's not a place I can guarantee he'll get out of."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was also at the Downing St dinner.

Earlier Key and wife Bronagh attended a service at St Paul's Cathedral before attending a reception for dignitaries and members of the Royal family.

Key said he spoke to Prince William and wife Kate - and "Kate has very much got a visit to New Zealand in her sights so we will be able to welcome the young royals down there at some point."

He also spoke to them about Prince Philip, who was admitted to hospital with an infection after an epic trip down the river Thames for a jubilee pageant.

Key said he was told Prince Philip was recovering and 'bearing up well".

Family had tried to encourage Prince Philip to take a break during the boat journey but he and Queen Elizabeth had felt "an enormous responsibility" to be visible for the million-plus people who lined the Thames to watch them go by.

GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS

Key now had a round of business meetings and was using his dinner with Cameron to press New Zealand's case over a punitive departure tax slapped on long haul plane travel by the British government.

The tax adds more than $800 to the cost of a trip to New Zealand for a family.

Key previously sought a commitment from Cameron to review the tax but acknowledged today he was fighting "a losing battle".

"The simple facts of life are the United Kingdom has got a big budget deficit."

The tax was having a big impact on the number of Britons visiting New Zealand and he did not think it was good for Britain either, as it turned that country into an expensive destination.

"And we obviously also worry about the contagion effect, but I think in the very short term we're not going to get a reversal of that."

Europe was also expected to dominate discussions between the three leaders and Key said the concern was that there could be a domino effect on Spain and Italy if Greece exited the Eurozone.

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"If they were to fall out of Europe that would signal a very deep recession in Europe and that would have a very big impact on the United Kingdom which is already in recession.

"So I think everyone can understand what's at stake here. The problem is no one can move easily till they know what happens in the Greek elections."

After the dinner at Number 10 Mr Key said it been a friendly occasion but "in the end the topic.....was always going to be Europe".

"Everyone recognises the severity of the situation"

* What they ate:
Hereford steak and salad for the main course, followed by strawberries and cream.

- Stuff

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