Australia tells Britain not to forsake the European Union

LONDON Tue Jul 23, 2013 9:52pm BST

The Union Jack and the EU flags fly in Ashford, southern England April 30, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The Union Jack and the EU flags fly in Ashford, southern England April 30, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

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LONDON (Reuters) - Australia has told Britain it hopes it will remain part of the European Union, becoming the latest country to intervene in an emotive domestic debate that may culminate in a referendum to decide if Britain leaves the 28-nation bloc.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold such a referendum by the end of 2017 if he wins the next parliamentary election in two years' time, responding to public concerns about perceived EU meddling in domestic affairs and signs that those EU states that use the euro may opt for greater integration.

Australia's intervention follows calls from the United States and Japan for Britain not to sever its EU ties and suggests that Cameron's plan to give Britons a vote on the issue is causing unease with some allies.

France and Germany have signalled they want to keep Britain in but will resist it trying to "cherry-pick" the EU policies it likes and dropping those it does not.

Australia's contribution came in the form of a letter sent from the office of Foreign Minister Bob Carr published on the website of the British Foreign Office on Monday as part of a review the government is conducting into the country's EU ties.

"Australia recognises the UK's strength and resilience and looks forward to seeing it continue as a leading economy and effective power," the letter said. "Strong effective membership of the EU contributes to this."

Australia valued the role that Britain played in shaping EU foreign policy, it added. "I hope to see this continue long into the future," the author, whose name and signature had been blanked out at the bottom, said.

A second letter sent from an unidentified individual based at Parliament House in Canberra said EU membership allowed Britain to better "leverage" its global influence and meant it was viewed as "a platform for trade and investment in the broader EU market."

"I encourage the UK to maintain its influence by remaining an engaged participant of the EU internal market," it said. With a market of 500 million people, the EU is Britain's main trading partner.

The British government said in Monday's review that the economic benefits of Britain's EU membership outweighed the loss of independence on policy.

However, polls suggest more Britons want to leave the EU than stay in. A YouGov poll in May said 46 percent would vote to leave, 35 percent would opt to stay in, 16 percent were undecided and 4 percent would not vote.

Cameron says his preference is for Britain to remain inside a reformed EU. Trailing slightly in most polls, it remains unclear whether he will win the next election.

He has said he will try to renegotiate Britain's membership before giving people a straight in-out vote.

Australia is not among the top ten foreign investors in Britain, but in 2011 British government statistics put the value of existing Australian investments at 11.6 billion pounds.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Comments (6)
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
I think the British public will get very angry indeed with foreigners whom start trying to dictate what, and what they should not do…

Britain doesnt (traditionally) wear that very well!

Further the UK is on a quasi-member of the EU at present anyway, otherwise its central bank would be doling out ‘euro’s’.

EU absorption has proven that the British voice in the world has been diminished significantly, and has been greatly diluted enough already!

Many now dream of the day of the ‘Brexit’.

UKIP is going to walk the UK European vote come 2014…

Jul 23, 2013 10:47pm BST  --  Report as abuse
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
Maybe Reuters would like to explain how leaving a glorified Customs Union, (EU) is leaving the European Economic Area? (EEA)

You can print ***t, but it doesnt mean all shall swallow it!

Jul 23, 2013 10:49pm BST  --  Report as abuse
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
The European Economic Area (EEA) comprises the member states of the European Union (EU), except Croatia, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It was established on 1 January 1994 following an agreement between the member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Community (which became the EU). It allows the EFTA-EEA states to participate in the EU’s Internal Market without being members of the EU. They adopt almost all EU legislation related to the single market, except laws on agriculture and fisheries. However they also contribute to and influence the formation of new EEA relevant policies and legislation at an early stage as part of a formal decision-shaping process. In addition, independence and direct membership of international bodies in their own right means the countries are able to participate in and become signatories to various conventions, such as the Basel Convention of 1992, that are only adopted by the EU many years later (2007). One EFTA member, Switzerland, has not joined the EEA, but has a similar agreement with the EU.

Jul 23, 2013 11:28pm BST  --  Report as abuse
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