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16th Jun 2019

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China urges Britain to stay inside EU

  • The two leaders drank beer in a pub near Cameron’s Chequers country house and ate fish and chips. (Photo: facebook.com/10downingstreet)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has urged the UK not to leave the EU in a rare intervention in a foreign country’s internal affairs.

He told British PM David Cameron on Friday (23 October): “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”.

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His remarks, as published in the form of a paraphrase by the Chinese foreign ministry the same day, mark an unusual departure from China’s doctrine of non-intervention in other countries’ internal matters.

They come amid British plans to hold an In/Out EU referendum by 2017.

They also come amid a slump in support for the In vote, in a development linked to the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to mainland Europe.

Just 52 percent of Brits want to stay in the EU, compared to 61 percent in June, an Ipsos Mori poll said on Thursday. Support for leaving the EU rose to 39 percent, from 27 percent.

The Cameron-Xi meeting, which lasted four and a half hours, marked the end of a four-day state visit, which included military pomp and royal banquets.

The two men, also on Friday, drank beer in a pub near Cameron’s Chequers country house and ate fish and chips.

The red-carpet treatment has attracted criticism from human rights activists, who note that the Chinese regime has a blood-soaked record on the Tibet independence movement and on political dissent more broadly.

The Chinese foreign ministry read-out added that Cameron and Xi agreed “to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with the British side in reform and innovation, rule of law, fighting corruption”.

It also reported that: "Cameron said Britain and China are civilised countries … [which] should respect each other's views”.

The British PM’s statement on Friday focused on foreign policy and security.

It said they agreed “the international community must come together more effectively to tackle the evil of ISIL”, referring to the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

It added: “On Ukraine, the prime minister and president both encouraged progress in implementing the Minsk accord”, referring to a ceasefire deal.

Xi, earlier in his British tour, noted he wants UK support for China to join the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

He said he wants the UK to “spur China-Europe cooperation”, mentioning his Silk Road Economic Belt project - a plan designed to promote trade flows via Central Asia, a region bedevilled by poor road and rail connections, to Europe.

He mostly steered clear of foreign policy and security.

But he said the international community should avoid the “bloc mentality” of the Cold War, in an allusion to the new climate in relations between the West and Russia, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Opinion

Behind the UK-China-EU ménage à trois

In the short-term, the UK-China 'golden decade' will be reflected in a series of multi-billion pound business deals. In the medium-term, it has the potential to make the UK China's largest offshore renminbi intermediary worldwide.

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