It’s not just Britain’s business what happens to Britain. From Russia to Australia, everyone has something to lose or gain in this historic referendum
Given that the referendum on the European Union deals with a key aspect of the United Kingdom’s relations with the external world, it seems pertinent to list the foreign supporters on each side. For although the referendum is being decided by the British electorate, Brexit would have wider implications beyond these shores.
Those who would like to see the UK ‘Brexit’ are quite varied, but it is hard for Vote Leave to leverage such support. Vladimir Putin has made no personal statement on the outcome of the vote (maybe because, for once, he does not know the outcome), yet the Kremlin’s propaganda TV Channel RT (formerly Russia Today) is very much in favour, drawing comparisons with the fall of the Soviet Union — and the Kremlin does fund several anti-EU movements across the continent. Given that sanctions are up for renewal after the vote and London has been one of the strongest proponents, that would be an immediate gain, especially because other EU members are wavering about it. But, more broadly, it plays into Russia’s hands of having an EU fragmenting and possibly distancing itself from the USA.
A man who needs no introduction, not least because he does his own PR under pseudonyms, is Donald Trump. Facts and rationality are not part of his patter but personal attacks are and when David Cameron refused to apologise for his ‘divisive, stupid and wrong’ comment after Trump proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the USA, the presumptive Republican candidate advised British voters to vote to leave. Maybe it was also to counterpoint himself against Barack Obama (and Hillary Clinton) but there was an undertone of spite, to hurt Cameron with his prominent role for Remain, even perhaps to oust the Prime Minister should the UK leave. The Donald is not to be crossed!
One might think that Daesh (ISIS, IS, etc.) would have had their hands full with creating carnage across the Middle East, but the upstart Caliphate has weighed in on Brexit. Their official website is very supportive of a British departure, citing parallels with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. After all, was not the withdrawal of the legions from Britannia in 410 the prelude to the collapse of the West?
In a boost for Brexit campaigners’ hope of a Commonwealth alliance, the former Liberal Prime Minister of Australia, arch conservative John Howard, has said he is in favour of Britain leaving. He did leave office so unpopular that he lost his own seat in the general election which brought down the curtain on his career, but he does still have a certain cachet and name recognition. Winston Peters, a former deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, finds the prospect of Brexit exciting.
Within Europe, Marine Le Pen and her Front National are dearly hoping for a decision to Brexit, as it would give momentum to them for their desire to take France out of the EU. Matteo Salvini, the head of the Italian far-right party Lega Nord (Northern League), Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders, Belgian Tom Van Grieken, leader of the Flemish far-right party Vlaams Belang and Vojislav Šešelj, founder of the far-right Serbian Radical Party, are all on the record of favouring Brexit.
Those who would prefer the UK to remain are also wide-ranging. Naturally, all incumbent governments of other EU members would prefer for the UK to stay inside the club. So would all the governments of the non-EU members of NATO, plus all living Secretary-Generals of the Alliance, past and present.
President Obama has made his intentions clear and Clinton, who hopes to succeed him, has fully endorsed his comments. A gaggle of past and present US officials who have been Secretaries of State, Defence and the Treasury have also come out unequivocally. They are backed by the IMF, the World Bank and the G7, who have got things wrong in the past, but that does not mean they will be eternally incorrect. The current prime ministers of Canada (Justin Trudeau), Australia (Malcolm Turnbull) and New Zealand (John Key) have all backed Britain remaining, with Key stating if Europe was on its doorstep ‘we would be looking to join’. More than 50 countries with whom Britain has signed a free trade accord, where EU membership is part of the deal, are nervous of a British departure.
If all this sounds like a global conspiracy by the ‘establishment’, Noam Chomsky, that notorious establishment sell-out, has said that Britain should vote to remain as the lesser of the two evils.
So the contrast looks a little lopsided. For Leave, there is Putin, Trump, Antipodean has-beens and the (curdled) cream of European fascism. For Remain, there is pretty much the rest of the world, including the incumbent governments of all the UK’s friends and allies. Whatever sways you though, please vote.