Friday’s trading session looks like it could be the first up day for the ASX in this shortened trading week.

The primary cause of the recent share market weakness appears to be global worries regarding “Brexit” – the upcoming vote by Britain on whether to remain in the European Union or not.

While trying to pick the near term direction of the market is arguably a fool’s game, investors know that the long term trend of the market is up.

Holding defensive stocks can be a good long term strategy for investors looking to protect their portfolio from the downside risk of a market crash, while also remaining exposed to the long-term upward trajectory of the market in general.

Here are three defensive stocks worth considering.

TPG Telecom Ltd (ASX: TPM) has a market capitalisation of $10 billion and can now definitely be considered a serious rival to Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS). Unlike Telstra however, TPG has none of the legacy issues to hold it back and enjoys the flexibility of being a nimble competitor with above average growth potential.

Ramsay Health Care Limited (ASX: RHC) certainly isn’t cheap but then very high-quality companies rarely are. Ramsay has a widely diversified asset base of private hospitals which provide shareholders with a particularly compelling set of defensive operations.

AGL Energy Ltd (ASX: AGL) is one of Australia’s largest power generators and operates an extensive energy retailing business. Unlike many of its energy sector peers which are heavily exposed to the oil price, AGL is relatively protected and offers shareholders a more reliable and predictable stream of earnings.

If you are interested in quality dividend shares, then I would recommend this top dividend share instead. A strong yield and potential share price gains make this a great investment idea in my opinion.

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Motley Fool contributor Tim McArthur has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.