The United Kingdom is very strong at fighting terrorism but its ability will be “more effective” if it sticks together with its European allies, said United States President Barack Obama, who is currently on a three-day visit to Britain.
Obama, who wrote in the Daily Telegraph of UK, said being in the EU magnified Britain’s influence across the world. The president arrived the UK late on Thursday.
But writing in the Sun, Vote Leave’s Boris Johnson said President Obama’s view was “a breathtaking example of the principle do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do”.
Before meeting Prime Minister David Cameron for talks later, the president and First Lady Michelle Obama will attend a private lunch with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle – the day after the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry will welcome the Obamas for dinner at Kensington Palace on Friday evening.
The president’s intervention in the UK’s forthcoming EU referendum on 23 June has been hotly debated and sparked claims of “hypocrisy” from those who want to leave the EU. They claim the US “would never contemplate anything like the EU for itself”.
In his newspaper piece President Obama recognised that ultimately the matter was for British voters to decide for themselves. But he also said: “The outcome of your decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States.
“The tens of thousands of Americans who rest in Europe’s cemeteries are a silent testament to just how intertwined our prosperity and security truly is.”
In response, Mr Cameron tweeted: “The US is one of our closest allies. So it’s important to hear Barack Obama on why we should remain in the EU.”
BBC North America editor John Sopel said the president had not needed to make his intervention and could have been much more nuanced.
“That he has is a mark of the profound concern felt in Washington about the implications of a British departure from the EU,” he said.
However, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said a Brexit-supporting cabinet minister had stressed that Obama’s view “was not the settled view in the USA. The Republicans don’t agree and there is disquiet at his blatant meddling in UK politics”.
The minister had suggested Ted Cruz supported Brexit, she added.
In his article, Mr Obama said that the US’s relationship with the UK had been “forged as we spilt blood together on the battlefield”.
He went on to say the UK had benefitted from being inside the EU in terms of jobs, trade and financial growth, and that it “magnifies” the UK’s global influence.
“This kind of co-operation – from intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism to forging agreements to create jobs and economic growth – will be far more effective if it extends across Europe. Now is a time for friends and allies to stick together,” he wrote.
James Rubin, US secretary of state from 1997 to 2000, told BBC Breakfast the president had not offered any words of reassurance about Britain’s future relationship with the US if it left the EU because “it won’t be OK”.
“We have a phrase in America: ‘Friends don’t let friends drive drunk,'” he said, adding that it would be “a big mistake for Britain to leave the EU and set asunder what has been a very successful relationship”.
But Boris Johnson described Mr Obama’s argument as “inconsistent” and “downright hypocritical”.
“The Americans would never contemplate anything like the EU for themselves or for their neighbours in their own hemisphere. Why should they think it right for us?”
And Mr Johnson described the notion that the UK had more influence inside the EU than outside as “nonsense”.
“The UK has been outvoted 40 times in Brussels in the last five years, and the total bill for those defeats – in extra costs for UK government and business – is put at £2.4bn a year,” Mr Johnson wrote. (BBC)