19 April 2016

President Obama’s Brexit intervention insults the British people


President Obama has been no friend to Britain. His presidency has overseen the weakening of the Special Relationship, a byproduct of Obama’s general lack of respect for America’s allies. In many respects, Barack Obama has been the most anti-British US president of modern times, siding with Argentina over the Falklands, removing a bust of Sir Winston Churchill from the Oval Office, calling France America’s “strongest ally”, and even snubbing the funeral of Margaret Thatcher.

Other key allies have been treated with similar disdain, most notably Israel, whose Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been viewed by the Obama White House through a lens of sneering contempt. In contrast, there is barely a US adversary on the face of the earth that the Obama presidency has not reached out to and extended the hand of friendship. From the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran to the Russian reset, and the opening of ties with Castro’s Cuba, President Obama has delighted in breaking bread with the enemies of freedom.

Yet America’s president still has the gall to lecture the British people on how they should vote in the upcoming EU referendum. Barack Obama will visit the UK later this week as part of a broader overseas tour, when he is expected to send a stern warning to British Eurosceptics that leaving the European Union would be a dangerous step. This is nothing less than a slap in the face for British voters as they prepare for an historic day that could fundamentally transform the future for America’s closest friend and ally.

The British people do not need to be lectured to and told what to think by a failed US president who couldn’t care less about the Special Relationship. If Obama was really concerned about Britain, he would understand why millions of Britons wish to free themselves from the shackles of the EU superstate. Mr. Obama is getting involved in the Brexit debate because he instinctively sides with those who wish to remain part of the European Union. His instincts are those of a Brussels bureaucrat, with a firm belief in big government, state control, high taxes, red tape, and supranationalism.

Obama has little sympathy for the Brexiteers, with their love of sovereignty, self-determination and a desire to reassert full control of Britain’s borders. It is little wonder that Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, once declared that Brussels could lay claim to the title, “capital of the free world.” The Obama administration, unlike most British people (and I imagine most Americans, if they were asked) thinks the European Project, the drive to create a European superstate, is a great, noble ideal. It is blind to the reality of economic decline, mounting Islamist terror in the face of colossal intelligence failures, an absence of border controls across much of Europe, and a resurgence of tension and hostility throughout the European continent.

The European Union has become the enemy of economic liberty and self-determination, a monument to the over-centralisation of political power and the suppression of nation states. The EU represents European decline, while Brexit offers hope for renewal and a vision of a resurgent Britain that looks out to the world, and not just across the English Channel.

A Great Britain outside the EU offers the best opportunity to advance the Special Relationship, the transatlantic partnership, and the NATO alliance. All rest upon the power of nation states, and are threatened by the forces of supranationalism. Barack Obama’s presidency has been a disaster for the United States, with American leadership eroded abroad and economic freedom weakened at home, combined with a dangerous decline in US military strength.

The best response the British people can give to President Obama’s unwelcome intervention is to have their say at the ballot box. If they choose to exit the EU, the next US president should embrace Brexit and help ensure its long-term impact is beneficial for both the United Kingdom and the United States. Brexit should be viewed by Americans as a tremendous opportunity. A sovereign, revitalized Britain alongside a post-Obama United States that is once again prepared to lead will be a powerful force for freedom and prosperity on the world stage.

Nile Gardiner is the Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC