US President Barack Obama used his final official visit to the UK as President to intervene in the debate about Britain’s upcoming referendum on EU membership.
Speaking at a press conference with Prime Minister David Cameron at the start of a three-day visit, the US President said Britain would go to the “back of the queue” for trade deals with the US if it votes to leave the European Union.
The US president said a trade agreement would not happen any time soon in the event of Britain leaving because it was better to strike the transatlantic deal with Europe as a whole.
Obama went on to say that Britain was at its best when “helping to lead” a strong EU and membership made it a “bigger player” on the world stage, adding that being a member of the EU “strengthened the Special Relationship”.
Responding to a question on whether he had the right to intervene in the UK’s referendum, he said: “Ultimately this is something the British voters have to decide for themselves,” but he added: “As part of our special relationship, part of being friends is to be honest and to let you know what I think, and speaking honestly, the outcome of that decision is a matter of deep interest to the US, because it affects our prosperity as well.”
Responding to Mr Obama’s intervention, Chief Brexiteer Boris Johnson accused him of hypocrisy, saying: “It is incoherent. It is inconsistent, and yes it is downright hypocritical. The Americans would never contemplate anything like the EU, for themselves or for their neighbours in their own hemisphere. Why should they think it right for us?”
In addition to the EU referendum debate, the US President and Prime Minister also discussed a range of foreign policy issues, including the threat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the situation in Libya and boosting Operation Sophia, the EU naval mission cracking down on people traffickers in the migrant crisis.
President Obama also took a timeout from politics to have a birthday lunch with The Queen, whom he called “a real jewel to the world”. He presented her with a 90th birthday gift of a photo album chronicling her visits with US presidents, highlighting the close relationship between the UK and the US.