Obama’s ‘misguided’ EU referendum intervention threatens UK sovereignty, say US lawmakers

U.S. President Barack Obama © Joshua Roberts
Republican lawmakers have warned US President Barack Obama his controversial intervention into the British EU referendum debate threatens to harm the “special relationship.”

Some 11 Republican Congressman have written to Obama ahead of the EU referendum to attack a speech he gave at Downing Street in May, in which the president warned of the dangers of Brexit.

The signatories include Chairman of the Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry and Chairman of the Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes.

In the letter, the congressmen described Obama’s intervention as “misguided” and argued that the United States must respect the sovereignty of other nations.

During a visit timed to coincide with Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday earlier this year, Obama warned that the United States would be in no hurry to agree a bilateral trade deal with a Britain outside the EU.

I think it’s fair to say that maybe at some point down the line there might be a UK-US trade agreement, but it’s not going to happen any time soon because our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union, to get a trade agreement done. And the UK is going to be at the back of the queue,” he said.

The comments caused furore among Leave campaigners, with UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage accusing Obama of “talking Britain down.”

Former Defense Minister Liam Fox dismissed the president’s intervention, calling his views “largely irrelevant,” as he will soon be leaving the White House.

Justice Minister Dominic Raab meanwhile said he thought Obama was doing Prime Minister David Cameron a “political favour.”

In their letter, the 11 Republican Congressmen said they would not take an official stance on the referendum and branded Obama’s intervention “misguided.”

Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, citizens of the United Kingdom should know that we will continue to regard our relationship with the United Kingdom as a central factor in the foreign, security and trading policies of the United States.

The United States, as a nation founded on the sovereign and democratic voice of the American people, must respect the sovereignty of other democratic peoples, and their inalienable right to determine their own destiny. Any interference in their decision can only harm our relationship.”

Conservative leader of the Commons Chris Grayling said many “friends and allies” on Capitol Hill thought Obama’s veiled threat regarding trade was “ridiculous.”

The reality is that very many of Britain’s friends in Washington are relaxed about what we decide on Thursday and they want to make sure the special relationship remains strong whether we leave or remain in the EU,” he said.