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Obama Praises EU in London Op-Ed Aimed at Swaying Brexit Vote

Thursday, 21 April 2016 08:46 PM

President Barack Obama intervened as expected in U.K. politics, urging Britons in an op-ed article to reject a so-called Brexit from the European Union on the eve of his meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron.

“The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence –- it magnifies it,” Obama said in the op-ed, published by the Daily Telegraph shortly after the president arrived in London on Thursday to meet with Cameron and the royal family. “A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership.”

Cameron has called a June 23 referendum on exiting the EU, a vote that also amounts to a test of public confidence in his leadership. Cameron’s government supports remaining in the union and is hoping that Obama’s intervention can sway British voters.

In the op-ed, Obama drew on the long history of U.S.-U.K. relations, evoking President Franklin D. Roosevelt to make the point that the two countries have long shared common interests.

“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,” 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.”

Obama said that while the U.K. faces many of the same challenges as the U.S., including migration, economic inequality and terrorism, the best way to address them is through collective action.

The president will have lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and dinner with Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge on Friday, during a visit sandwiched between a summit of Persian Gulf countries in Saudi Arabia and an international trade fair in Germany. Business groups and government officials on both sides of the Atlantic have warned that a Brexit would hurt the U.K. and European economies.

“Any American president will have an interest in the European Union not falling apart,” said Mauro Guillen, who teaches international relations at the Lauder Institute and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “It would be a serious setback to the European Union if the U.K. were to leave.”

On Wednesday, eight former U.S. Treasury secretaries dating back to the Nixon administration warned in a letter published in the Times newspaper in London that a Brexit would be a “risky bet.” Obama’s three-day stop in London comes as the British electorate is leaning toward the “remain” camp, according to public opinion surveys. The Bloomberg Brexit Tracker puts the odds that the “leave” side wins at about 20 percent.

Obama’s visit could help sway the large portion of the British electorate that is undecided, Jeffries Briginshaw, chief executive officer of the British-American Business group, said in an interview.

“There’s goodwill to this president and he will be listened to--he’s the president of the United States,” Briginshaw said.

Supporters of the “leave” campaign, , including London Mayor Boris Johnson, have opposed the president’s visit, saying he shouldn’t meddle in a foreign referendum.

“I just think it’s paradoxical that the United States, which wouldn’t dream of allowing the slightest infringement of its own sovereignty, should be lecturing other countries about the need to enmesh themselves ever deeper in a federal super-state,” Johnson told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Cameron’s decision to campaign to stay in the EU, pitting him against some members of his own cabinet, makes the referendum a test of his leadership just over a year after he secured an unexpected majority in the general election. His team has deployed the sort of negative campaigning last seen in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence to dissuade the electorate from voting for a Brexit. A report by the Treasury published Monday, for example, outlined various post-exit scenarios, all of which the analysis showed would leave Britons worse off.

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President Barack Obama intervened as expected in U.K. politics, urging Britons in an op-ed article to reject a so-called Brexit from the European Union on the eve of his meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron."The European Union doesn't moderate British influence -- it...
obama, say, no, to, brexit, london, oped
Thursday, 21 April 2016 08:46 PM
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