In the midst of his trip to the United Kingdom, President Obama weighed in on the contentious battle to keep Britain within the realm of the European Union (EU).
Stating Britain is “magnified” through its membership in the economic alliance, Mr. Obama said:
“If one of our best friends is in an organization that enhances their influence and enhances their power and enhances their economy, then I want them to stay in it.”
On trade, a particularly delicate issue between London and Washington, and one in which Mr. Obama emphasized would injure the UK should it vote in June’s referendum to leave the EU bloc, Mr. Obama continued:
“It’s fair to say that maybe some point down the line there might be a UK-US trade agreement but that’s not going to happen anytime soon because our focus is negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union, to get a trade agreement done. And the UK is going to be in the back of the queue, not because we don’t have a special relationship but because given the heavy lift on any trade agreement, us having access to a big market with a lot of countries rather than trying to do piecemeal trade agreements is hugely efficient.”
Described by some as an unprecedented intrusion into British politics, Mr. Obama fended off accusations he was meddling in British internal affairs when one reporter confronted Mr. Obama during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr. Obama’s comments were not without critics.
Writing the United States can once again enjoy a close and fruitful bond, the “special” relationship the two nations have long been known to cherish, the unconventional and quirky London mayor listed a string of reasons why the UK could benefit from the “Brexit” he advocates and maintain a healthy relationship with its European neighbors and the U.S.
Calling the EU “deeply anti-democratic,” Johnson stated the United States would never become intertwined in such an economic confederation and described America’s passion for protecting its democratic ideals founded on a “hysterical jealously.”
In what may be the most critical segment, Johnson also reminded readers of Mr. Obama’s removal of a bust of the revered British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, long decorating the Oval Office.
Viewed as a snub, Johnson theorized its removal by Obama “was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.“
British politicians were quick to demand Mr. Johnson retract his statement with some suggesting both Johnson and members of the Tory party were racist.
Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames, a descendant of Churchill, stated: “Appalling article by Boris Johnson in [The] Sun, totally wrong on almost everything.“
Labor Shadow Chancellor of the Exchecquer John McDonnell responded:
[The Sun] [Reuters] [conservativetreehouse] [Daily Mail] [Photo courtesy The Independent]
Mask slips again. Boris part-Kenyan Obama comment is yet another example of dog whistle racism from senior Tories. He should withdraw it.
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) April 22, 2016