London, April 22 (IANS) US President Barack Obama called on the British people on Friday to support their country’s continued stay in the EU in the referendum scheduled for June 23.
In an article published on Friday in the Daily Telegraph, Obama, who arrived in London on Thursday on a three-day visit, stressed that Britain being part of the EU increases the country’s prestige in the world, Efe news reported.
Obama’s opinion on the EU debate is a boost to the campaign of British Prime Minister David Cameron in favour of the country staying in the EU, but has been criticised by supporters of Brexit, led by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who believe that Obama should not intervene in Britain’s affairs.
Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said Obama should stay home. “A monstrous interference,” Farage told Fox News on Thursday. “I’d rather he stayed in Washington, frankly, if that’s what he’s going to do.”
“You wouldn’t expect British prime minister to intervene in your presidential election, you wouldn’t expect Cameron to endorse one candidate or another. Perhaps he’s another one of those people who doesn’t understand what [the EU] is,” Farage said.
London Mayor Boris Johnson — born in New York — has expressed strong support for the UK-US relationship, but he has accused Obama of hypocrisy.
“I just think it’s paradoxical that the US, 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 superstate,” Johnson said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Cameron, however, has said that the advice of allies was welcome, and that “listening to what our friends say in the world is not a bad idea.”
“I struggle to find the leader of any friendly country that thinks we should leave,” he said on Wednesday.
Obama highlights the special relationship between his country and Britain. He said they “should be proud that the EU has helped spread British values and practices — democracy, the rule of law, open markets — across the continent and to its periphery”.
“The EU doesn’t moderate British influence — it magnifies it. A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership,” Obama said.
Obama will meet Cameron before giving a press conference, during which he is expected to reiterate his support Britain staying in the EU.
Cameron is in a difficult position, backing the “Remain” campaign, while many within his own Conservative Party are campaigning for the “Leave” or “Brexit” (British-Exit) campaign.
Polls show the race is tight, with the ‘Remain’ campaign holding an edge as small as one percent.
Obama is also scheduled to deliver birthday greetings to Britain’s oldest and longest-serving monarch, 90-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, during a lunch on Friday.
He and Cameron will then fly to Germany for a summit with the German, Italian and French leaders on Monday about the future of Libya.
Obama has described Libya as his biggest foreign policy mistake, and there is now no quick way to persuade the many Libyan factions to unite behind a stable UN-backed government of national accord, the Guardian reported.
Three weeks after he arrived in the capital, Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, was shunned by both an Islamist-led Tripoli government and the elected parliament in Tobruk.
The need to garner sufficient political support has led Sarraj to hold off from formally requesting western help, including allowing the west to operate in Libyan waters. His opponents are already accusing him of being a tool of the west.