Brian Monteith: Barack Obama’s EU message will linger

President Barack Obama and David Cameron play golf in Hertfordshire on Saturday. Picture: AP
President Barack Obama and David Cameron play golf in Hertfordshire on Saturday. Picture: AP
Have your say

The US president’s intervention sends a clear message about the prime minister, writes Brian Monteith

The president of the United States has now flown off to visit chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany, but his diplomatic intervention in Britain will reverberate for a long time yet.

When the prime minister of the United Kingdom needs vocal support in his own back yard from heads of state of foreign powers we can deduce two things; the first is that our premiere is bankrupt of moral authority in his own land and secondly, that our Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be heavily involved in choreographing the message.

David Cameron’s strategy to keep the UK in the European Union has miss-fired from the start. His gamble that he could secure credible reforms from the EU failed and left him with next to nothing positive to say about how our lives and fortunes will improve as the European Commission’s drive towards more regulation and centralisation continues. Few if anyone now mentions the Prime Minister’s deal, who can remember what is in it? If Barack Obama had been asked by any of his British media interviewers if he could list what David Cameron had achieved I have no doubt he would have floundered.

It is not surprising that Obama, the candidate that attracted the majority of Wall Street money in the last two presidential elections, is on the same side as American banks Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Citibank that have piled money into the pro-EU campaign.

Obama is very keen that we sign up to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership (TTIP), a trade deal that will give EU members and the US greater access to each other’s markets. There is a great amount of suspicion across Europe about what will be included in TTIP and how it might affect our public services, not least because the EU-US negotiations are shrouded in secrecy. If Members of the European Parliament wish to know more detail about what the draft treaty contains they have to go into a locked room and read it without taking notes or any copies and cannot communicate its contents afterwards. This style of consultation is the sham that passes for democracy in the European Union.

Yet we are told by Obama to accept conditions of political union that no US politician could ever support if wishing to be elected to the White House. The US does not allow the Organization of American States to make its laws, nor does it allow free movement of labour from Mexico or Canada across its borders or foreign judges to act as its supreme court.

The US enjoys access to the European Union single market without having a trade deal but, unlike us, its taxpayers do not have to pay billions for the privilege – and still won’t if TTIP is passed. It is to help push this deal that Obama wishes us to stay in the EU and was happy to oblige David Cameron by assisting his faltering campaign.

That Obama’s speech, articles and interviews would have been agreed with the UK Foreign Office is beyond doubt. The give-away was when he threatened us with going to the “back of the queue” if the UK wanted its own trade deal after leaving the EU. Any self-respecting American would have said “back of the line”, but that would have been lost on the British public and so his draft had to be anglicised. The argument is, in any case, fallacious.

The United States is already the UK’s largest trading partner, with the UK running a substantial surplus without requiring a trade deal to achieve this. The idea that the world’s fifth largest economy, soon to become the fourth largest when we overtake Germany, would be of little interest ahead of smaller countries is risible – just as it is laughable that the US and British trade officials can only negotiate one deal at a time.

The Foreign Office has been, and continues to be, very busy encouraging heads of state to visit London if they are willing to go on the record and say we should stay in the EU, so we should not expect Obama to be the last. One man they won’t be inviting is John Key, the prime minister of New Zealand, who took David Cameron to task recently when the two met at a conference in Washington DC, complaining about the growing restrictions to migration by his citizens into the UK that don’t apply to those from the EU.

Has the Obama intervention been worth it? Polling in the US by YouGov showed that the president is out of touch with his own people, with 59 per cent supporting the statement that, “our two nations have always had a special relationship and America should never put Britain at the back of the line.” This was more than double the 28 per cent that agreed with “Britain cannot expect to be treated more favourably than other nations wanting a trade agreement with theUS”

The polling suggests that the American people hold the so-called special relationship in higher regard than their president, indeed the UK was ranked as “America’s closest ally” by 55 per cent with second placed Canada next at 16 per cent.

The reaction is the UK has been no less dismissive, with YouGov finding 41 per cent “annoyed” or “angered” with Obama’s intervention compared to 25 per cent “pleased” with it while 22 per cent “don’t care about it”.

On 26 June 1963, president John F Kennedy gave a speech in Berlin that praised the German people for resisting the threat of an expanding superstate that threatened their freedom. As he finished he said: “So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.”

On 23 June we shall have our own opportunity to resist a secretive, unaccountable, undemocratic and expanding superstate that wishes to homogenise the whole of Europe.

How disappointing that Barack Obama could not see he is on the wrong side of the pursuit of freedom, democracy and self-determination by people making their own laws. If anyone ever doubted it, the visit of the US president to London and Berlin has demonstrated that Obama is no JFK.

• Brian Monteith is a director of ­Global Britain