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Australia 'would welcome UK staying in the EU'

Published 01/05/2016

Ukip leader Nigel Farage wants the UK to leave the EU
Ukip leader Nigel Farage wants the UK to leave the EU

Australia would welcome Britain staying in the European Union, the country's prime minister declared as he joined international backing for a "remain" vote in the referendum.

Malcolm Turnbull said relations would remain "very, very close" between the two countries whatever the outcome on June 23 and insisted it was "absolutely a decision for Brits alone".

But he said it was an "unalloyed plus" for his country to have such a close ally within the EU.

The backing - which follows a similar intervention by New Zealand premier John Key - was hailed by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond as evidence against pro-Brexit campaigns' claims the UK must choose between Europe and the Commonwealth.

However, polls taken after US President Barack Obama used a trip to Britain to warn of the dangers of leaving the bloc suggest many voters are unhappy about overseas politicians expressing opinions on the issue.

Asked about the vote on Sky News in Australia, Mr Turnbull said: "We welcome Britain's strong role in Europe.

"The EU is an enormous economic and political entity and from our point of view - you might say from our selfish point of view - having a country to whom we have close ties and such strong relationships definitely an advantage.

"So if the British people, in their wisdom, decide to stay in the European Union, then we would welcome that.

"Britain's involvement in the European Union does provide us - and Australian firms particularly, many of whom are based in the UK - considerable access to that market.

"From our point of view it is an unalloyed plus for Britain to remain in the EU but I stress it is a matter for the British people and whatever judgment they make, the relations between Britain and Australia will always be very, very close."

Mr Hammond said the comments " underline the simple fact that our Commonwealth partners see Britain as being stronger and more influential as a member of the EU.

"The Leave campaign peddles the myth that Britain has to choose between our Commonwealth friends and our EU partners.

"But I believe that we can be influential and successful members of both the EU and the Commonwealth, and that is precisely what Australia and New Zealand are urging us to do.

"Both leaders are clear that the vote is a matter for the British people but it would be dangerous and arrogant to dismiss out of hand the concerns and feelings of some of our closest and oldest allies - partners with whom we share so much history and heritage, and with whom we work so closely on trade, defence and security."

A Vote Leave spokesman said: " Malcolm Turnbull said whatever the choice, Britain and Australia will be very close.

"Yet only if we vote Leave will Britain take back control of its ability to strike deals with countries like Australia instead of leaving it in the hands of Brussels bureaucrats."

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