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English honours fallen in Belgium

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/01/2017

Bill English has laid wreaths at Belgian World War I battlegrounds where New Zealanders lost their lives, as he continues his first overseas trip as prime minister.

He and his wife Mary travelled to the Flanders battlefields on Wednesday, their second day in Belgium, after meeting with European Union leaders in Brussels.

They laid wreaths at war memorials in Messines, Menin Gate at Ypres and Tyne Cot Cemetery in Passchendaele, the home of the single most deadly battle for New Zealanders in modern history.

Locals gathered to watch as Mr English read the ode For the Fallen at Menin Gate.

The break from politics was only brief, with Mr English scheduled to meet Nato head Jens Stoltenberg and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel later in the day.

Mr English has already met with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss trade, Brexit, the refugee crisis and security.

He told reporters while international leaders knew his predecessor John Key, as the leader of a small country he had to continue putting himself and New Zealand froward.

"Whatever decisions are made around how Britain leaves Europe, how Europe deals with its own issues such as slow economic growth, immigration - all of those things have an impact on New Zealand in the end," he said.

From Belgium Mr English will head to London for meetings with British Prime Minister Theresa May and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, before travelling to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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