Trump is outlier in wanting Britain to quit EU

by Jack Schickler | 22.06.2016

US presidential contender Donald Trump, in the UK this week to open one of his revamped Scottish golf courses, said recently that the UK would be “better off without” the EU. That Trump also shows tendencies to trade protectionism, and questions the need for the NATO military alliance, suggests that in backing Brexit he may not have the UK’s best interests at heart.

Fortunately, his views stand in marked contrast with the vast majority of world leaders – some allies, others not – who favour us remaining in the bloc. The only other world leader who may want us out, though he has not actually said so, is Russia’s Vladimir Putin – and that’s hardly comforting. He would benefit from the division of Europe.

Serving US President Barack Obama has said of the UK-EU question, “If one of our best friends is in an organisation that enhances their influence and enhances their power and enhances their economy, then I want them to stay in it.” His would-be successor Hillary Clinton echoed the sentiment. Obama also said that, if we left, we would be at the “back of the queue” for a deal with the US, our biggest trade partner.

What of other major economies? “China hopes to see a prosperous Europe and a united EU, and hopes Britain, as an important member of the EU, can play an even more positive and constructive role in promoting the deepening development of China-EU ties,” says its president, Xi Jinping. “Japan very clearly would prefer Britain to remain within the EU,” according to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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Great Britain remaining in the European Union is desirable,” says Germany’s Angela Merkel. India’s Narendra Modi says that, from his perspective, “if there is an entry point for us to the European Union that is the UK”.

Money and trade aren’t everything, of course. As Brexiteers like Daniel Hannan like to point out, we also have a strong affinity with the English-speaking “Anglosphere” – for example, through the Commonwealth or the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partnership.

They want us to stay too. “Britain is always going to have clout. It’s just obviously amplified by its strength as part of the EU,” says Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “It is an unalloyed plus for Britain to remain in the EU,” says his Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull. “If we had the equivalent of Europe on our doorstep, New Zealand as a country would be looking to join that,” according to Prime Minister John Key.

Back on our side of the world, the prime minister of our nearest neighbour, Ireland, has voiced worries about the “serious damage” that could follow Brexit.

Add in France and Italy and you discover that every G7 member has publicly supported our continued membership. So have the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain. In fact, nine of our top 10 export destinations want us to stay. (The president of the remaining country, Switzerland, has been more discreet but told newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag in comments published on June 12 that “the Swiss economy will also be negatively affected by an uncertain situation in Europe” following a Brexit.)

In short, our global friends agree we are a better ally as a member of the EU. At a time when British values are in retreat around the world, the geopolitical case for staying is more compelling than ever.

Edited by Alan Wheatley