Boris v Barack: London mayor accuses Obama of Brexit ‘hypocrisy’

US President Barack Obama and London mayor Boris Johnson © Stringer
Mayor of London Boris Johnson has called US President Barack Obama’s intervention in the EU referendum debate “a piece of outrageous and exorbitant hypocrisy,” because the US protects its own sovereignty with “hysterical vigilance.”

In his Telegraph column, Johnson said the US president’s claim that Britain would lose global influence if it leaves the bloc is “wholly fallacious.”

There are reports Obama may visit the UK to make the case for staying in the EU, but Downing Street has refused to comment on the claims.

“Sometime in the next couple of months we are told that President Obama himself is going to arrive in this country, like some deus ex machina, to pronounce on the matter,” the mayor wrote.

“Air Force One will touch down; a lectern with the presidential seal will be erected. The British people will be told to be good to themselves, to do the right thing. We will be informed by our most important ally that it is in our interests to stay in the EU, no matter how flawed we may feel that organization to be.

Johnson warned that the US was putting undue pressure on the UK to stay in the bloc, despite concerns about sovereignty and bureaucracy. The mayor is one of a number of high-profile Conservatives to back a Brexit, despite renegotiation efforts by Prime Minister David Cameron.

“Never mind the loss of sovereignty; never mind the expense and the bureaucracy and the uncontrolled immigration. The American view is very clear. Whether in code or en clair, the president will tell us all that UK membership of the EU is right for Britain, right for Europe, and right for America; and why?

“Because that – or so we will be told – is the only way we can have ‘influence’ in the councils of the nations. It is an important argument, and deserves to be taken seriously. I also think it is wholly fallacious – and coming from Uncle Sam it is a piece of outrageous and exorbitant hypocrisy,” he wrote.

Johnson was attacked by Conservative Chancellor George Osborne, who said the mayor is naive to suggest Britain can achieve a Canadian-style deal with the EU. The agreement with Canada took seven years to negotiate.

“I hear people saying ‘I want Britain to be like Switzerland, I want Britain to be like Norway, I want Britain to be like Canada.’ You know what? I want Britain to be like Great Britain,’” Osborne told the BBC.

The chancellor also took a personal swipe at Johnson. Unlike the mayor, he would not sit and “blather away,” but would take a course of positive action, he said.

In another blow to Johnson, his mayoral legacy was lambasted by a former adviser to the prime minister, who told the BBC the Conservative leadership had always been “skeptical” of his decision to stand for mayor.

Steve Hilton, who left Downing Street in 2012 but remains close to the PM and the chancellor, said: “I honestly struggle to think of what his legacy is.”