Lankan ministers in London campaign against Brexit

Sri Lanka’s two main ruling parties have joined the chorus of global voices urging British citizens to vote to remain in the European Union at next Thursday’s crucial referendum. As opinion polls indicate that British support for leaving the European Union has surged, Telecom and Digital Infrastructure Minister Harin Fernando told the Sunday Times last night that several ministers and deputies who would be visiting Britain in the next few days on official matters would meet British citizens of Sri Lankan origin to urge them to vote to remain within the union.

During visits to London last week, Mr. Fernando, Deputy Minister Harsha de Silva and former UNP MP Rosy Senanayake addressed Sri Lankans living in the UK, explaining the implications to Sri Lanka if Britain decided to leave the EU.
Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera who was in London for the Sri Lanka-England third Test match at Lord’s also met British citizens of Sri Lankan origin and urged them to vote ‘no’ for Brexit, a term coined by the British media to indicate Britain’s exit from the EU. They expressed their support for British Prime Minister David Cameron’s campaign to remain in the EU.

Minister Fernando said Minister Susil Premajayantha and State Minister Dilan Perera would be doing the same during their visit to that country in the coming days. “Both, President Maithiripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are of the view that it would be beneficial for Sri Lanka if the UK remains in the EU as it has a strong economy,” he said

In an opinion piece to Britain’s popular “i” newspaper, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the European single market was critical for Sri Lanka. It is the world’s biggest trading bloc and the biggest export market for more than 80 countries, including Sri Lanka. He warned that its disruption would have global consequences.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the UK had built up and maintained economic success, from the days of empire to the European single market. “To leave the EU now would put that very position at risk. It would be, in cricket parlance, a hit wicket, and it is therefore not surprising that your allies and friends have expressed their anxieties and concerns.”

The United States President Barack Obama and leaders of France, Germany and other powerful economies have called on British citizens to vote to remain in the EU, while Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has said he would not say whether he wanted Britain to leave the EU, though he added it was a a “complicated” choice for British people.

The Ipsos MORI poll of 1,257 adults across Britain from June 11-14 showed 51 percent of all voters wanted to leave the bloc and 49 percent wanted to stay.