John Key on Brexit: UK remaining in European Union is in NZ's best interests
Ongoing free-trade talks mean it is in New Zealand's best interests for the UK to stay within the European Union, Prime Minister John Key says.
Key's comments come as British politicians and the UK prepare to go to the polls for a referendum on the "Brexit" - a departure from the EU - on June 23.
In a speech on Wednesday launching the campaign for those who favour staying in the EU, British Prime Minister David Cameron named New Zealand as one of the UK's "friends" which would not want it to leave, The Guardian reported.
"The Australians want us to stay in because they know Britain in Europe will help to make sure that the European Union looks out for them. That's what the New Zealanders think, the Canadians, the Indians, the Chinese, everyone.
"I'm yet to meet a serious friendly country, one that wants a stronger relationship with us, that thinks we will be better outside."
A spokesman for Key said that while the referendum was a matter for the British people, "it is in New Zealand's interests for the UK to remain in the EU", due to ongoing negotiations over a free-trade deal.
"Negotiating this is one of our top foreign policy objectives and one which the UK is supporting. New Zealand has worked hard to be part of bigger trade blocs because of the benefits they bring and the UK is already part of one of the largest."
The UK was also an important partner for New Zealand on other foreign and security policy issues which involved work with the EU, Key said.
Labour leader Andrew Little said he was "a bit reluctant" to weigh in on whether it was best for the UK to stay in or leave the EU.
"They've got to make a decision in their particular circumstances and it's a bit hard for us to tell them what's good for them."
However, Little noted that the UK had previously shown its ability to win concessions from the EU, such as keeping its own currency, while remaining a member.
"When it's suited Britain to do so, they've either claimed exceptions or negotiated exceptions ... I think they've been very good at taking what's good for them and leaving behind what they like, and I think the same will continue."