OTTAWA — The British envoy to Canada says he welcomes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying this week that Britain should not leave the European Union.
High Commissioner Howard Drake says his country faces a huge decision in the June 23 referendum that will decide whether Britain should leave the 28-country EU.
Drake says he did not think Trudeau was meddling in Britain's internal affairs.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is greeted by United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing St. Wednesday Nov.25, 2015 in London, England. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
"The prime minister was very careful to point out this is a matter for the British public to decide, not for foreign countries," Drake said Friday.
"But I think, as any world leader is entitled to do, he is entitled to express a view of what he thinks his country's national interests should be."
Trudeau told Reuters news agency on Thursday that he wants to see Britain remain as part of a united Europe, where it would enjoy greater prosperity.
"Britain is always going to have clout, it's just obviously amplified by its strength as part of the EU," said Trudeau.
"As any world leader is entitled to do, he is entitled to express a view of what he thinks his country's national interests should be."
"I believe we're always better when we work as closely as possible together and separatism, or division, doesn't seem to be a productive path for countries."
He also said it was far from certain that Britain would be able to negotiate its own unilateral free trade deal with Canada.
The remark echoed what U.S. President Barack Obama recently said about the possibility of Britain negotiating its own free trade deal with United States if it left the EU. Obama said that would leave Britain at "the back of the queue" in negotiating with the U.S.
Trudeau suggested it would be equally difficult for Britain to replicate its own version of the Canada-EU free trade deal, known as CETA, saying "there’s nothing easy or automatic about that."
Trudeau not alone
Trudeau is the latest world leader to speak out against Britain leaving the EU — the so-called Brexit — along with Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Several global financial bodies have said Britain's economy would suffer if it left the EU.
Drake summarized his government's position this way: "It is very much in Britain's interest to remain a member of the European Union, that it is a vote for our prosperity and our security and that the alternative — what is being articulated by the leave campaign — is very much a leap in the dark."
Drake played down any potential effect on CETA if the Brexit forces win the day on June 23.
"We don't think we're going to leave the EU so that's very hypothetical," he said. "The CETA process is a separate one. And obviously it's hugely important to Canada. The prime minister, the government made that very clear here."
Under the EU's rules, it could take several years for Britain to formally break ties with the EU once it declared its intention to leave. During that time, Britain would remain a part of the EU and be bound by its treaties.
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