Obama repeats Brexit caution; Hillary joins pro-EU appeal

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Apr 24, 2016 17:39 IST
US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in central London. (REUTERS)

US President Barack Obama repeated his appeal to Britons not to leave the European Union in the June 23 referendum, and cautioned that a trade deal with a post-Brexit Britain could take 10 years to reach, unlike claims of reaching such a deal quickly.

Obama’s interventions in the ongoing referendum campaign has met with some hostility from the Brexit camp, which was further infuriated by US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also advising Britain to remain in the 28-nation grouping.

Minister for Armed Forces Penny Mordaunt joined other Brexit campaigners to criticise Obama’s interventions, saying that he showed “woeful ignorance” of the damage the EU allegedly causes to Britain’s national identity.

Before leaving for Germany on Sunday after a three-day visit – likely to be his last during his remaining term in office – Obama told BBC: “It could be five years from now, 10 years from now before we are able to actually get something done (on a trade deal with a post-Brexit Britain)”.

“The UK would not be able to negotiate something with the United States faster than the EU. We wouldn’t abandon our efforts to negotiate a trade deal with our largest trading partner, the European market…whether we like it or not, we are in an interconnected world,” he said.

The Brexit camp has claimed that being in the EU makes it difficult for Britain to reach trade deals with countries such as US and India, but Obama’s remarks poured cold water on such claims. He had said earlier that Britain would be ‘in the back of the queue’ if it voted for Brexit.

As London mayor Boris Johnson and others accused Obama of hypocrisy when the US would never countenance handing over sovereign powers to a body like the EU, Mordaunt said he “must be unaware of the alarming weaknesses” that allow terrorists from the so-called Islamic State “to move unimpeded across Europe” as a result of the EU’s “bull-headed desire to take down all frontiers on the continent”.

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