International reactions to the Brexit referendum

International reactions to the Brexit referendum entail external reactions to the 2016 British decision to leave the European Union from economic, political, media, religious and academic sections of society. Politically, reaction in support of the result came from both left-wing and right-wing spectrums, while opposition to the result came from institutions of state calling for a quick separation; yet other neutral comments came from others who respected the democratic will of the voter. Economically, financial markets faced turmoil the next day with extreme volatility and central bankers expressing their support to maintain stability, with Switzerland and South Korea having already intervened.

European Union

 European Union

Member States

After hosting talks with his counterparts from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg the following day, Germany's Walter-Steinmeier said that "we now have to open the possibility for dealing with Europe’s future. That is why we jointly say: This process should start as soon as possible." France's Jean-Marc Ayrault said: "We demand that the 27 other member countries also get respect. That’s one of the reasons we came to Berlin today."[2] He added: "There is a certain urgency ... so that we don't have a period of uncertainty, with financial consequences, political consequences."[3] Luxembourg's Asselborn's said: "I believe you can destroy the European Union with referenda. We have to communicate better what the EU has done, and we have to work harder on issues such as migration where we have failed." A joint statement also read: "We now expect the UK government to provide clarity and give effect to this decision as soon as possible."[5]


 South Africa









Europe (Non EU)


 Isle of Man



Russia Russian Federation



Middle East





North America



 United States of America



South America



Supranational bodies


The euro fell by almost four percent against the United States dollar, while traditional "safe haven assets" such as gold and the Japanese Yen surged.[93] Crude oil prices fell.[94] The flagship French CAC 40 and German DAX initially fell by over 10% upon opening, while bank shares from the two countries fell by more. Likewise, the Spanish IBEX 35, Greek ATHEX, Dutch AEX index, Czech PX Index and Polish WIG30 all fell by eight to 15 percent. The Swiss franc, a traditional save haven asset, rose sharply, thus prompting the Swiss National Bank to intervene in the foreign exchange market to cap the rise.[95] It issues a statement that read: "Following the United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union, the Swiss franc came under upward pressure. The Swiss National Bank has intervened in the foreign exchange market to stabilise the situation and will remain active in that market." Yields on European sovereign bonds spiked, with 10-year bonds in Spain and Italy rose as much as 0.40% in early trades.[96] Sweden's Riksbank issued a statement that read it was "following the financial market developments closely and has a continuing dialogue with other authorities. We have contacts with the Swedish banks and other central banks. We are ready to take the necessary actions to handle financial market distortions."[97]

In the Asian-Pacific region, markets also fell.[98] Meanwhile, an unnamed official at the Bank of Korea in South Korea declined to comment on rumours it intervened in the foreign exchange market, but Vice Finance Minister Choi Sang-Mok said the government would take all efforts to minimise the impact of the result. An unnamed policymaker with knowledge of the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) plans for related market management said that it was "prepared to deal with any volatility."[63] Unnamed officials at SEBI said that they were in touch with the RBI on the market developments amid surveillance being beefed up to curb excess volatility and possible manipulations in various trading segments, including currency derivatives.[99] The Australian dollar, which has traditionally been sold off in times of financial market uncertainty, fell strongly against the dollar and the yen. Other traditional markers of uncertainty, such as interbank dollar funding rates in Singapore and Hong Kong, were more steady. Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang said: "Because of this matter, we have made preparation in many aspects. We have reserved sufficient liquidity and we are able to handle in different situations." The Hong Kong Monetary Authority asked banks within its jurisdiction to maintain ample cash conditions and that no unscheduled monetary liquidity injection operations had been taken. The Singapore stock exchange sought to reduce volatility by raising margins on Nikkei futures traded on its exchange. The Chinese yuan fell to its weakest level against the US dollar since January 2011 while its offshore counterpart slipped to its weakest level in more than four months, despite a possibly unrelated People's Bank of China injection of 170 billion yuan into the system. The Philippines Central Bank issued a statement that read it was closely monitoring the foreign exchange market and would be prepared to act to ensure orderly transactions and smooth volatility.

In the USA, government bonds effectively priced in a small FOMC interest rate cut from a rate increase in July.[63] When American markets opened there was a dramatic fall from Canada to Brazil.

Every two months, a conclave of many major central bank governors is held in Basel, Switzerland at the BIS. This month the meeting coincided with the day following the vote. RBI's Raghuram Rajan, who had previously called for greater co-ordination for such situations, issued a statement that sought to allay concerns about the impact of the vote on Indian financial markets and reiterated the RBI's promise to provide necessary liquidity support to ensure orderly movements. He also sought to reassure investors about India's preparedness to deal with the eventuality and that the Indian rupee's fall was relatively moderate compared to many other currencies.[100]


Anton Boerner, head of Germany's foreign trade association, said: "That is a catastrophic result for Britain and also for Europe and Germany, especially the German economy. It is disturbing that the oldest democracy in the world turns its back on us."[4] Europe's airport trade body, ACI Europe called for the European Union and United Kingdom aviation markets to remain integrated in the future by safeguarding air connectivity and continuing to support economic development.[101]

In India, Biocon Chief Managing Director Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw said: "It has opened up a Pandora's box of grave uncertainties. Will Euro [sic] remain intact or will we see others exit? What will be the impact on the Euro itself? Will it devalue and to what extent? How will India's bilateral trade with UK and Europe be impacted? How much will the USD strengthen against the Pound Sterling/Euro/Rupee?" She added that "India cannot be in denial that it will be immune to such a result and that there is likely to be mayhem for several weeks before things stabilise. It's fortunate that we still have Raghuram Rajan at the helm of RBI at this critical time."[102] India's Nasscom President R. Chandrashekhar said: "The impact of Brexit will certainly be negative in the short-term on account of volatility in the exchange rates, uncertainty in the markets and the terms on which Britain will leave the EU." Chief Investment Officer for TD Asset Management said that investors are wondering if the result could lead to a slowdown in the global economy.[101] Tata Group, whose Tata Steel was involved in controversy following the decision to shut down their Port Talbot Welsh steel mill, amongst other layoffs,[103] were suggested to be the hardest hit on the Indian financial markets.[104] An unnamed company spokesman said that access to markets and a skilled workforce were "important considerations;" he added that "there are 19 independent Tata companies in the UK, with diverse businesses. Each company continuously reviews its strategy and operations in the light of developments, and will continue to do so."[105] Tata Motors', whose portfolio includes the British based Jaguar Cars and Land Rover, shares sank the day of the announcement. An unnamed division spokesman said: "We remain absolutely committed to our customers in the EU. There will be a significant negotiating period and we look forward to understanding more about that as details emerge."[106]

Singapore's United Overseas Bank issued a statement that read: "We will temporarily stop receiving foreign property loan applications for London properties. As the aftermath of the UK referendum is still unfolding and given the uncertainties, we need to ensure our customers are cautious with their London property investments. We are monitoring the market environment closely and will assess regularly to determine when we will re-instate our London property loan offering."[107]


The BBC, the British national broadcaster, highlighted uncertain reactions from the EU, Ireland and Greece.[108] characterising Britain's plan to leave the European Union as "utter disruption" that could result in a "domino effect." North Korea's Rodong Sinmun wrote an editorial that called the result as "causing problems."[109] Sweden's Dagens Nyheter and Dagens Industri questioned the decision to hold a referendum. The latter's political editor P. M. Nilsson wrote, in an editorial, that "democracy is greater than the power of the people...[the result clearly showed that] the democratic aspirations of the international cooperation such as the EU should be reduced. At present, the key question should not be how people could get more power from the EU, but rather how to protect the EU, together with its member states, from such expressions of people's power."[110]


In the article "Britain's Democratic Failure", Professor Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University wrote "This isn’t democracy; it is Russian roulette for republics. A decision of enormous consequence ... has been made without any appropriate checks and balances ... The idea that somehow any decision reached anytime by majority rule is necessarily “democratic” is a perversion of the term. Modern democracies have evolved systems of checks and balances to protect the interests of minorities and to avoid making uninformed decisions with catastrophic consequences." [111]

Professor Michael Dougan of Liverpool University said "On virtually every major issue that was raised in this referendum debate Leave’s arguments consisted of at best misrepresentations and at worst outright deception" and that the Leave campaign was "criminally irresponsible" [112]

Khaled al-Hroub, a senior research fellow at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge said: "In theory, the UK's influence on the EU policies vis-à-vis Arab issues such as Palestine, Syria and Iraq will end - which is not necessarily a bad thing to have. The British used to pull the EU in the direction of more Americanised positions and politics. Relieving the EU from British pressure could be seen as a good sign that allows for more independent European standing on Arab affairs."[77]



Former politicians

Former Czech President Václav Klaus said the result was a victory for democrats who want to live in a free world and it would change the thinking of millions of people in Europe. He compared the result to the British resistance against Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler. He also stated that it would not have any economic effect on the Czech Republic.[116] Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott commented that "a brave and momentous decision by the British people taken against the advice of foreigners (including me!). There will be more chance of an Oz FTA (Free Trade Agreement) with Britain than with the EU."[117][118]


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