Obama and Brexit: Setting the Stage

With attention turning to President Obama’s impending visit to London, controversy around what the US leader will say on Brexit is growing. In a sign the American government is in no mood to make nice with its critics in the Brexit movement, the Times this morning carries a letter from an array of former US Treasury Secretaries counselling UK voters against leaving the EU. The letter, which is signed by stalwarts of Republican administrations as well as some of Obama’s closest economic advisers, effectively tees up the President to make his headline-grabbing arguments later this week.

The official Brexit camp has reacted dismissively to the US political establishment’s latest salvo, telling it to butt out of British domestic matters. But the American government’s intervention is particularly awkward for many anti-EU Conservative politicians given their long tradition of Atlanticism and admiration for America’s free market model. The fact leading Republican politicians - most notably former presidential candidate John McCain – are in accord with Obama on Brexit makes it doubly embarrassing.

And it appears the Obama administration has some tough messages for other parts of the British political spectrum too. Following a mini-row over whether Jeremy Corbyn would find time to meet the President during his visit, US sources have now indicated Obama never had any interest in meeting the Labour leader in the first place. Such a revelation is unlikely to bother many of Mr Corbyn’s anti-US political allies, but if indeed the two do not meet it will raise further questions about the plausibility of the Leader of the Opposition as Prime Minister. A small but not meaningless sideshow to the main order of business as the President jets in.

Photograph: White House

Larry Smith

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search