Don’t turn your back on EU, Obama tells Britons as a ‘friend’


US President Barack Obama appealed directly to British voters on Friday to remain in the European Union, saying membership had magnified Britain’s place in the world and made the bloc stronger and more outward looking.

Obama, who opinion polls show is popular in Britain, applauded Britain’s EU membership which he said had helped make the world freer, richer and better able to tackle everything from migration to terrorism.

Invoking the interlinked history of the United States and Britain and the tens of thousands of Americans lying in European war graves, Obama implored voters to weigh the benefits of membership ahead of a June 23 referendum.

“The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence – it magnifies it,” Obama wrote in The Daily Telegraph, a eurosceptic British newspaper. “As your friend, I tell you that the EU makes Britain even greater,” the headline of Obama’s article read.

His remarks, which led television news broadcasts in Britain, undercut one of the most passionate arguments of the opponents of EU membership: that Britain could prosper on an equal basis with global powers such as the United States.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed Obama’s intervention, but the president’s comments drew scorn from opponents of Britain’s EU membership. New York-born London Mayor Boris Johnson, a leader of the “Out” campaign who hints he wants Cameron’s job, derided Obama’s arguments in a newspaper column that referred to “the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire”.

John McDonnell, the opposition Labour Party’s finance policy chief, called Johnson’s remarks “dog-whistle racism”. The White House declined to comment and a spokesman for Johnson did not respond to requests for comment.


Obama said Britain’s closest ally wanted it to remain in the club it joined in 1973 to bolster trade and strengthen the 28-member bloc, which Washington views as a pillar of stability in the post-World War Two era.

The US government, and many US banks and companies, fear a Brexit would cause market turmoil, diminish the clout of Washington’s strongest European ally, hurt London’s global financial hub status, cripple the EU and weaken Western security.

“Now is a time for friends and allies to stick together,” Obama said. “Together, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union have turned centuries of war in Europe into decades of peace, and worked as one to make this world a safer, better place.”

Opinion polls indicate that British voters are leaning towards the “In” camp but many remain undecided. Younger voters are more likely to support remaining in the EU, but “In” campaigners are worried that older voters may be more likely to turn out to vote.

Before talks with Cameron in Downing Street, Obama and his wife Michelle congratulated Queen Elizabeth, who celebrated her 90th birthday on Thursday. Prince Philip, Elizabeth’s 94-year-old husband, took the wheel of a Range Rover to drive the Obamas to lunch on the territory of Windsor Castle, a royal residence that traces its history back over almost 1,000 years to William the Conqueror.