Don't blame Obama! The US has always wanted Britain in the EU

Neil Clark
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
U.S. President Barrack Obama takes part in a Town Hall meeting at Lindley Hall in London, Britain, April 23, 2016. © Stefan Wermuth
Barack Obama’s call for the UK to stay in the EU has predictably faced an angry response from British eurosceptics. But it’s wrong to get personal as some right-wingers have done and label Obama “anti-British” – he is simply articulating a long-held US policy.

The US wants Britain to vote “Remain” in the June 23 referendum, not because it would be good for Britain, but because a “Yes” vote would be good for America and, in particular, for Wall Street, the State Department and the US military-industrial complex. The US desperately needs the UK to remain in the EU to help it achieve its global economic and military aims. A British withdrawal would make it more likely that a less Atlanticist and less neoliberal EU would emerge, and that Washington’s influence over Europe would be reduced. The only surprising thing about Obama’s pro-EU intervention is that anyone should be surprised by it. Pushing for “Britain in Europe” is what American presidents do.

That shrewd old bird Charles de Gaulle understood what it was all about when he twice said ‘Non!’ to British membership of the then-EEC in the 1960s. The French president may have been distrustful of “la perfide Albion” since childhood; his biographer Jonathan Fenby notes how the French retreat from Fashoda in 1898 had “marked him as a boy,” but de Gaulle’s main reason for keeping Britain out was because he didn’t want to let Uncle Sam in through the back door.

In 1961, de Gaulle warned that if Britain was accepted, “a colossal Atlantic community would emerge under American dependence and control which would soon swallow up the European community.” The French leader’s vision was for a Europe of sovereign states built “beyond the United States.” Atlanticists in West Germany and elsewhere opposed the Gaullist line, but the passage of time has proved the General right.

Britain has, particularly in recent years, played an important role in trying to get the EU to agree to policies which by any objective assessment are against European interests, but which could be said to further the interests of US neocons.

The sanctions on Russia – which have done European economies great harm – are an obvious example. The campaign to lift the embargo on arms to Syrian “rebels” fighting a secular Syrian government which posed absolutely no threat to the US, Europe or its citizens, was another.

As was the imposition of EU sanctions on Iran.

Of course it’s not just the UK which has been pushing for State Department-friendly policies to be adopted by the EU. France, since the country’s move away from Gaullism, has also taken a more Atlanticist position. The US cause has also been pushed within the EU by some countries from “New Europe” such as Poland.

Nevertheless, if there’s one country which can almost always be depended on to push Washington’s line on a wide range of issues within the EU, then it’s the UK.

In his article for the Daily Telegraph, President Obama said that “A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership.”

What he really meant was that Britain in the EU enhances the US’s global leadership – as Britain can almost always be relied to promote the official US policy, particularly in relation to “target” states.

Obama also claimed that the great sacrifice of American soldiers who helped liberate Western Europe from Nazi tyranny in World War Two gives the US a say in the referendum debate: “The tens of thousands of Americans who rest in Europe’s cemeteries are a silent testament to just how intertwined our prosperity and security truly are.”

Here, the President does have a valid point. No one would deny the important role that American GIs played in the liberation of Europe in 1944-45. But if we agree that liberating powers have a say in Europe’s future, then that means Russia also has a say, bearing in mind the Soviet Union lost 27 million people in the struggle against Nazism (compared to the 420,000 lost by the US).

Now, officially Russia has no position on Britain’s referendum.

Unlike Obama, President Vladimir Putin hasn’t said whether he prefers us Brits to be “In” or “Out.” But that hasn’t stopped pro-“Remain” Russophobes warning us that we need to vote to stay in the EU because Dr Evil (aka Vladimir Putin) wants us to leave. The same pro-EU neocons who defend US having a say on the referendum lambast Russia – even though Russia has not said anything about the referendum and how British people should vote. How’s that for Gold Medal hypocrisy!

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R) and US President Barack Obama (L) attend a press conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in central London on April, 22, 2016. © Andy Rain

As eurosceptic critics of Obama’s intervention have highlighted, the US would never accept the sort of restrictions on national sovereignty that membership of the EU entails.

Writing in the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid The Sun, Boris Johnson noted that the US refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and has refused to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Is the US (which hates signing up to things that restrict its sovereignty)
being hypocritical by urging Britain to stay in the EU? Of course, it jolly well is!

But Johnson was wrong – in fact very wrong – to make the suggestion that Obama’s policy might have something to do with his “part-Kenyan” heritage and the US president having an “ancestral dislike of the British Empire” – comments that were denounced as “dog-whistle racism” by Labour‘s John McDonnell.

Likewise, UKIP‘s Nigel Farage was also wrong to say: “Because of his grandfather and Kenya and colonisation, I think Obama has a bit of a grudge against this country."

Obama’s stance has nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with his background, his grandfather or Kenya; he was merely voicing a self-interested policy of the global superpower which has remained consistent down the years.

As I wrote in a previous RT OpEdge: “We know that the CIA supported Britain staying in the EEC [European Economic Community] in the 1975 referendum, and partially funded the ’Yes’ campaign and they’re likely to want a similar result in 2016.”

Rather than making personal attacks on the US president, and dragging up his “part-Kenyan” ancestry, critics of the US stance on the EU would be better off focusing on the claims that Obama has made.

The assertion that the US, UK and EU have “worked as one to make this world a safer, better place” should, in particular, not be allowed to go unchallenged. Recent US-led western military interventions in the Middle East and north Africa –either direct or through terrorist proxies – have undoubtedly made the world a less safe place and it’s very hard indeed to say that these interventions have made things better for people in the countries concerned. Libya, for instance, had the highest standard of living in the whole of Africa, before NATO – with the US, UK and France at the fore, “intervened”in 2011.

Now it’s a failed state and too unsafe for tourists to visit. Islamic State now has a presence in a country which lies less than 300 miles from Italy.

“A safer, better place,” Mr President? I don’t think so.

The US’s desire to see Britain stay in the EU doesn’t automatically mean that we ought to be supporting Brexit. Nevertheless, the US position should give progressives who are contemplating voting to “Remain” on June 23 pause for thought. If the US – the greatest instigator of wars and conflicts around the globe in the last few decades – is so keen for Britain to stay in the EU – can it really be a good thing?

And if Brexit means that Britain will indeed go to the “back of the queue” when it comes to signing a disastrous, democracy-destroying, US multinational-friendly trade deal like TTIP - as the president has threatened, then surely that’s an argument to vote “Leave” and not “Remain”?

The fact that some right-wingers are attacking the current US president for the wrong, and in some cases objectionable reasons, shouldn’t stop us from seeing the bigger picture.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.