President Obama has weighed in on the debate over “Brexit,” shorthand for an upcoming referendum on whether or not the United Kingdom should stay in the European Union.
During a press conference on his trip to London on Friday, President Obama said the U.S. and the U.K. are both strengthened by the Kingdom’s existence in the European Union and that what happens in Europe impacts both countries. The president spoke alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron following a meeting the two had at 10 Downing Street.
“I think there’s a British poet who once said no man’s an island. Even an island as beautiful as this,” the president said. “We’re stronger together.”
The president said the European Union “magnifies the power of the U.K. It doesn’t diminish it.” And on the key issue of trade, President Obama shut down any prospect of any immediate, replacement trade deal between the two countries if the U.K. were to leave the EU.
“There might be a U.K.-U.S. trade agreement, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon,” Obama said. Leaving the European Union, he added, would push the U.K. to the “back of the queue” on trade.
President Obama has been criticized for weighing in on the Brexit vote even ahead his remarks on Friday. In an op-ed he penned for the Telegraph, Obama also advocated that the U.K. remain in the European Union. “The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence – it magnifies it,” he wrote. “A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership.” Many in Britain have denounced the president’s visit and his comments, telling him in so many words to mind his own business.
On Friday, President Obama addressed the critics, saying he’s just offering his opinion. “This is a decision for the people of the United Kingdom to make,” Obama said. “I’m not coming here to fix any votes. I’m not casting a vote myself. I’m offering my opinion.”
The president also found himself defending the “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom. He suggested the two countries are “bound at the hip” and said his comments were akin to a best friend sharing a point of view.