President Obama is in London today meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron. At a press conference with Cameron, Obama urged British voters not to leave the European Union and went so far as to say that doing so would put Britain at the back of the line for future trade deals with the United States. The Guardian reports:
Appearing with David Cameron at the Foreign Office, Obama said he was delivering the warning that the UK is better off in the EU because “part of being friends is being honest”.
“I think it’s fair to say maybe some point down the line but it’s not going to happen any time soon because our focus is on negotiating with the EU,” he said. “The UK is going to be at the back of the queue.”
He said it would not be a priority “not because we don’t have a special relationship” but because it was more efficient to have one agreement with a lot of countries as a bloc rather than piecemeal arrangements with each one.
The president then claimed his statement was not a threat, “I’m not coming here to fix any votes. I am offering my opinion and in democracies everyone should want more information, not less, and you shouldn’t be afraid to hear any arguments being made. That is not a threat.”
Obama’s statement is seen as a win for Cameron who is leading the effort to remain in the European Union. A track of polls maintained by the Economist shows the vote to remain in the Union seems to be gaining steam.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who is a lead campaigner for the so-called Brexit, wrote an article for the Sun newspaper saying America would never do what Obama is now urging Britain to do:
This project is a million miles away from the Common Market that we signed up for in 1973.
It is deeply anti-democratic – and much as I admire the United States, and much as I respect the President, I believe he must admit that his country would not dream of embroiling itself in anything of the kind.
The US guards its democracy with more hysterical jealousy than any other country on earth.
It is not just that the Americans refuse to recognise the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, or that they have refused to sign up to the International Convention on the Law of the Sea.
America is the only country in the world that has so far failed to sign up to the UN convention on the rights of the child, or the UN convention on the emancipation of women.
For the United States to tell us in the UK that we must surrender control of so much of our democracy – it is a breathtaking example of the principle of do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do.
However Johnson has been heavily criticized for mentioning of Obama’s Kenyan heritage in the same article. Labor MP John McDonnell called it “yet another example of dog-whistle racism.”