Trudeau support of Britain in EU helpful, says EU foreign policy chief

Federica Mogherini calls Trudeau's message on EU unity 'powerful'

OTTAWA – The European Union’s foreign policy chief says Europe welcomed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent statement that Britain should remain in the 28-country bloc.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, arrived in Ottawa Wednesday night for meetings with Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion and his cabinet colleagues as British voters are poised to hold a referendum on June 23 on whether to leave the EU – what’s called a “Brexit.”

Last month, Trudeau told the Reuters news agency that he wants to see Britain remain as part of a united Europe, where it would enjoy greater prosperity.

“I noticed that Prime Minister Trudeau sent a pretty powerful message underlying that whenever regions, countries, organizations stay united, they’re stronger,” Mogherini said on Parliament Hill prior to her evening meeting with Dion.

“This is exactly the same message that we . . . like to hear in Europe.”

Dion was meeting his European Union counterpart as the two sides push towards the final ratification of their comprehensive free trade deal. He reiterated the message that Trudeau delivered on the British referendum.

“The fact is that Canada enjoys a lot, its relationship with a strong UK in a strong EU.”

Dion echoed Trudeau’s suggestion that it would be difficult for Britain to replicate its own version of the Canada-EU free trade deal, known as CETA.

“The prime minister made the point that it took for Canada five years to negotiate it,” Dion said.

Mogherini refused to speculate on what would happen to CETA if the Brexit side prevailed.

In addition to trade, Dion and Mogherini were to discuss climate change, the Arctic, the migration crisis in Europe and the ongoing security challenges in Syria and Ukraine.

The talks are part of the preparation for a larger Canada-EU leaders’ summit to be held this fall, which is expected to announce ratification of the trade deal.

Both parties expect the deal, which has been seven years in the making, to come into force in early 2017.

Mogherini also had meetings scheduled with several of Dion’s cabinet colleagues, including International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Immigration Minister John McCallum.