Brexit Battle: It's Barack Obama vs Boris Johnson

While the US President’s move to oppose Brexit got praise from David Cameron, it drew brickbats from Boris Johnson

London: US President Barack Obama arrived here with a message for the UK to vote to remain within the European Union in the June 23 referendum, saying the bloc “enhances Britain’s global leadership”.

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are greeted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, after landing at Windsor Castle yesterday. Pics/AFP
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are greeted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, after landing at Windsor Castle yesterday. Pics/AFP

In an article, Obama yesterday said the UK is stronger within the 28-member bloc and will also be more effective in fighting terror as part of the EU. “The European Union does not moderate British influence, it magnifies it. A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership,” he wrote.

London Mayor Boris Johnson
London Mayor Boris Johnson

“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, 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 urged.

“Together, the US, the UK, 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. And what a remarkable legacy we will leave when, together, we meet the challenges of this young century as well,” he concluded.

In response, British Prime Minister David 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.”

However, Obama’s strong intervention in favour of the ‘Remain’ camp of the debate attracted strong criticism from the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign, which accused him of being “downright hypocritical”.

“For the US 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, not as I do. It is incoherent. It is inconsistent, and yes it is downright hypocritical,” said London mayor Boris Johnson, one of the leading voices calling for Brexit.

“The Americans would never contemplate anything like the EU for themselves or for their neighbours in their own hemisphere. Why should they think it is right for us,” he said.

Obama, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, arrived for his three-day visit of the UK late on Thursday night. His official engagements began with a private lunch with Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 90 on Thursday, at Windsor Castle followed by talks with Cameron. Obama’s UK stay is part of a tour covering Saudi Arabia.

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