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EU Referendum - The View from Overseas

On 23 June 2016 the UK public will decide whether to remain a member of the European Union and it would seem that everyone has something to say about it.

Should people external to the UK be commenting at all?

There has been much controversy about interventions about the EU Referendum from foreign countries Heads of State, high profile overseas election candidates and global institutions. 

On the one hand people comment that the referendum is a democratic process, solely for the British people, that should be free from interference. The other side say that people should know the views of major trading partners and institutions around the world. Some believe that the interventions have been stage-managed by the government. Boris Johnson MP, a senior member of the Vote Leave campaign accused the government of "ringing round every other friendly government saying, we are in a bit of a spot, can you say something positive about the EU?"

What they have been saying

The United States

The most controversial intervention was made by out-going President Barack Obama during a visit to London in April 2016. Critics claimed that Mr Obama was a hypocrite and would never allow control over the United States courts and policy to be given away. He was also called out for saying that on trade deals the UK would be "at the back of the queue" which was seen as scripted by No.10 as the American term is "back of the line."

President Obama

Donald Trump

Republican nominee Donald Trump said he thought Britain would separate from the EU


Former Prime Minister, John Howard said “The European project is fundamentally flawed. I think its best days are probably behind it and there will be increasing tensions [over migration]. Britain can’t control its borders — it is ridiculous to say it can,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times. “If I were British, which I’m not, I’d vote to leave. You have lost your sovereignty.”

New Zealand

The prime minister of New Zealand, John Key said Britain's position is stronger if it remains in the European Union.  At a meeting with David Cameron, John Key said: "If we had the equivalent of Europe on our doorstep ... we certainly wouldn't be looking to leave it." He stressed that it was for the "British people to decide" on the outcome of the EU referendum on 23 June. But he added: "We certainly think it's a stronger position for Britain to be in Europe."


In Berlin, Merkel told German delegates that the British prime minister’s demands were “comprehensible and justified”. Keeping Britain in the EU, the chancellor told the German parliament, was “not just in Britain’s but also in Germany’s interest, and that of Europe as a whole”.

German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble told journalists “We would have years of the most difficult negotiations, which would be very difficult for the EU as well. And for years we would have such insecurity that would be a poison to the economy in the UK, the European continent and for the global economy as well.”


The largest issue of contention during the campaign followed No.10's assertion that a Calais-style 'jungle' camp would form in Kent if the UK left the European Union. On the wider issue, French President Francois Hollande said he wanted the UK to stay in the EU - and warned of the "consequences" for immigration and the economy of leaving.

"There will be consequences if the UK is to leave the EU, there will be consequences in many areas, in the single market, in the financial trade, in development, in the economic development between our two countries. "It doesn't mean that everything will be destroyed, I don't want to give you catastrophic scenarios, but there will be consequences."


Although he did not address the UK referendum directly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that given the challenges and threats facing the world today, the EU will remain a valued partner of Canada.

“In a world of shifting global power, it is more important than ever to leverage the Canadian-European partnership to advance our common values and interests,” Trudeau said.“An effective European voice in the world is vital. The EU is a unique partner for Canada, and Canada has a direct stake in a strong and united EU.”


Shinzo Abe, Japanese Prime Minister said on a visit to London “Japan attaches importance to our relationship with the UK as a gateway to the European Union,” Abe said. “Japan very clearly would prefer Britain to remain within the EU. It is better for the world that Britain remain in a strong EU". He added, “British membership is also better for Japanese investors in the UK, precisely because the UK is a gateway to the EU.”.