News Europe

Friday 15 December 2017

Obama urges UK to stay in EU and says Brexit would hinder the country's fight against terrorism

President Barack Obama, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and First Lady Michelle Obama talks with Prince George at Kensington Palace. Photo: Pete de Souza
President Barack Obama, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and First Lady Michelle Obama talks with Prince George at Kensington Palace. Photo: Pete de Souza

Peter Dominiczak in London

Barack Obama has urged Britain to stay in the European Union, saying that the sacrifice of his country's soldiers during World War II means America has a stake in the referendum debate.

The American President invoked the spectre of the war and told British voters that their choice in the referendum "will echo in the prospects of today's generation of Americans as well".

In an article for the 'Daily Telegraph' he also warned that a vote to leave the EU will leave Britain less able to tackle terrorism, the migration crisis and any economic shocks in the global economy.

But his intervention has sparked a controversy. Responding to the remarks yesterday, London mayor Boris Johnson landed himself in a storm after referring to Mr Obama as the "part-Kenyan president".

In a piece for 'The Sun', Mr Johnson referred to the alleged removal of a bust of British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office when Mr Obama became president.

"Some said it was a snub to Britain," he wrote.

"Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president's ancestral dislike of the British empire - of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender."

Ukip leader Nigel Farage has supported Mr Johnson's remarks in his piece for 'The Sun' and claimed Mr Obama bears a grudge because of colonialisation.

Mr Obama's intervention will infuriate Eurosceptic cabinet ministers, who have said it is "inappropriate" for him to comment on a British referendum.

The US president used his article to tackle their criticism head-on, suggesting that he has a right to comment because Britain and America's "special relationship was forged as we spilled blood together on the battlefield".

"I will say, with the candour of a friend, that the outcome of your decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States," Mr Obama wrote.

"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 are. And the path you choose now will echo in the prospects of today's generation of Americans as well."

Mr Obama made clear that he believes that the United States, the United Kingdom and the EU "have turned centuries of war in Europe into decades of peace, and worked as one to make this world a safer, better place".

"What a remarkable legacy that is," he wrote. "And what a remarkable legacy we will leave when, together, we meet the challenges of this young century as well."

He made an emotional appeal for Britain to vote to remain a part of the EU, which he says is an institution created "from the ashes of war".

He makes clear that Britain - and America's - ability to tackle the threat of Islamist terrorists is better served if the UK is still in the EU after the June 23 referendum.

"Our special relationship was forged as we spilled blood together on the battlefield," he wrote. "It was fortified as we built and sustained the architecture for advancing stability and prosperity in Europe, and our democratic values around the globe.

"From the ashes of war, those who came before us had the foresight to create the international institutions and initiatives to sustain a prosperous peace: the United Nations and NATO; Bretton Woods, the Marshall Plan, and the European Union.

"Their efforts provided a foundation for democracy, open markets, and the rule of law, while underwriting more than seven decades of relative peace and prosperity in Europe.


"Today, we face tests to this order - terrorism and aggression, migration and economic headwinds - challenges that can only be met if the United States and the United Kingdom can rely on one another, on our special relationship, and on the partnerships that lead to progress.

"As citizens of the United Kingdom take stock of their relationship with the EU, you should be proud that the EU has helped spread British values and practices - democracy, the rule of law, open markets - across the continent and to its periphery," he wrote.

"The European Union doesn't moderate British influence - it magnifies it. A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain's global leadership; it enhances Britain's global leadership. The United States sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic. So the US and the world need your outsized influence to continue - including within Europe."

The US president and British Prime Minister David Cameron met yesterday and Mr Obama and his wife also had lunch with Queen Elizabeth II.

This week, Mr Cameron warned that the referendum is a "choice for life" and said a vote to leave would be a "self-inflicted wound on our economy".

He also accused ministers backing the Brexit campaign, including Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, of "insulting" the British people and "scaremongering" about what staying in the bloc means for the country.

The prime minister also warned that British products including cider, cheese and whisky, could be threatened if the country leaves the EU because they would no longer enjoy protected geographical status, meaning copycat producers could sell products of an inferior quality with the same name.

It came as the UK's statistics watchdog warned that one of the key claims made by the Brexit camp over the financial cost of EU membership is "potentially misleading".

Vote Leave's claim that £350m (¤440m) a week is sent to Brussels does not take into account the UK's rebate or the money that comes back from the EU, Sir Andrew Dilnot said as he criticised the "lack of clarity" in the way the statistics have been used.

Irish Independent

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