Sunday

16th Jun 2019

Obama tells 'best partner' UK to stay in EU

  • Cameron (l) - 'an outstanding partner' - and Obama at a G8 summit in 2013 (Photo: President of the European Council)

US president Barack Obama has repeated his call that the UK remain a member of the European Union.

“Having the United Kingdom in the European Union gives us much greater confidence about the strength of the transatlantic union and is part of the cornerstone of institutions built after World War Two that has made the world safer and more prosperous”, Obama said in an interview with the BBC, broadcast on Thursday (23 July).

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“We want to make sure that the United Kingdom continues to have that influence,” he added.

His remarks are a repeat of what he said in January 2013, when he said “that the United States values a strong UK in a strong European Union”.

The UK will hold a referendum before the end of 2017 on whether the country should remain part of the EU.

Prime minister David Cameron has pledged to “get a better deal” for the UK before the poll takes place.

In June he presented fellow EU leaders with his wish list, which includes scrapping the EU goal towards an “ever-closer Union” from the treaty, reducing welfare benefits for non-British EU inhabitants of the UK, and making sure developments in the eurozone do not affect the UK.

“The whole debate that's been taking place about the European Union, the eurozone, Greece, that's a complicated piece of business,” noted Obama, who also praised Cameron as “an outstanding partner” in security and defence issues.

“We don't have a more important partner than Great Britain”, he said, joking that apart from “1812” when the US and the UK were at war, “Great Britain has always been our best partner”.

The UK is one of the few European countries that will this year meet its Nato target of spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defence, something remarked on by Obama.

“For him to make that commitment when he has a budget agenda that is, you know, confined - a budget envelope that is confined, is really significant.”

In another move met with approval by the US, Cameron also recently said that he wants his country to “do more” in the fight against Islamic State in Syria. London is also a strong advocate of the proposed EU-US free trade deal currently being negotiated.

Not everyone appreciated Obama's remarks on the UK's EU membership.

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan said in a social media message "there may be some arguments" for the UK to stay in the EU, but "humouring Barack Obama is not one of them".

His fellow MEP from the UK Independence Party, Patrick O’Flynn noted "Barack Obama [was] unwise to pressurise Britain to stay in the EU for America's convenience. We need to look to our own national interest first."

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