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EU Referendum

DOMINIC LAWSON: An ear-bashing by Obama on Europe will just make us MORE keen to quit

David Cameron has invited Barack Obama to visit this country with the purpose of tellling the British people why we should remain in the EU
David Cameron has invited Barack Obama to visit this country with the purpose of tellling the British people why we should remain in the EU

While David Cameron is doing his best to muzzle his most Euro-sceptic colleagues on the subject of the forthcoming referendum on our membership of the EU, behind the scenes he is encouraging as many senior foreign politicians as possible to tell the British people why we should remain.

The biggest of all these big cheeses is, of course, the President of the United States.

Cameron has invited Barack Obama to visit this country with the purpose of persuading Britons to listen to our Prime Minister when he tells us that the deal he has negotiated with Brussels will transform the relationship into something we should all vote to support.

This was confirmed last week by the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Bob Corker.

He asked witnesses at a committee hearing: ‘The President is planning to make a pretty big reach-out in this regard: how do you think the people of the UK will respond to us at the highest level embracing this?’

Good question, Mr Corker. While the Prime Minister clearly sees an intervention by Obama as an asset for the Remain campaign, some in Washington realise that a foreign leader telling us what is in our own best interests might have the opposite effect to that intended.

As a former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, Julianne Smith told the committee last week: ‘If we give a very powerful bear hug to our friends in London’ — presumably she meant No 10 Downing Street — ‘and stress the importance of the EU, that can backfire.’

In fact, Mr Obama has already poked the presidential toe into these turbulent waters, speaking out for Britain’s continued membership of the EU in an interview with the BBC’s Washington correspondent, Jon Sopel, last year.

 John Redwood, the former Conservative leadership contender, was duly provoked.

‘If letting foreign countries impose laws on you, levy taxes on you and spend your money is such a good idea,’ he retorted, ‘why doesn’t Obama create an American Union so Mexico can have common borders with the U.S., Cuba can spend U.S. tax on itself and Brazil can impose laws on the U.S. that the U.S. doesn’t want?

‘If he did that to the U.S. and it worked, then he would be in a stronger moral position to lecture us on having common borders with Eastern Europe, having Greece spend our money and having laws the Germans want, but we don’t.’

I have no objection to the U.S. President expressing the opinion that it is in America’s interest for Britain to stay in the EU and if he contented himself with that, it would be a completely acceptable intervention.

The purpose of the U.S. President's visit is to persuade Britons to listen to Cameron when he says the deal he has negotiated with Brussels will transform the relationship into something we should all vote to support


 To be fair to Obama, that was roughly the gist of what he said to the BBC last July: ‘Having the UK in the EU gives us much greater confidence about the strength of the transatlantic union and is part of the cornerstone of institutions built after World War II that has made the world safer and more prosperous. We want to make sure that the UK has that influence because we believe that the values we share are the right ones.’

Or, in other words: we in the U.S. want you to stay in the EU because you think more like us, and not like the French, who regard America and the English language as a cultural and political threat.

But it is not merely the desire to see a close ally within the EU, bringing whatever influence it can to bear, which has been a long-standing principle of U.S. foreign policy.

Another reason for America’s support for some sort of federal Europe was attributed to Dr Henry Kissinger during the Cold War, when he (allegedly) remarked: ‘Who do I call when I want to speak to Europe?’

Having the UK in the EU gives us much greater confidence about the strength of the transatlantic union
Barack Obama

The EU has strived to bring this crude aspiration to reality, with the creation of a common European Foreign Ministry, which has ‘ambassadors’ across the world, with all the potency that comes from having, well … no army whatsoever. This is where the contrast between the grand pan-European vision and the reality of events on the ground exposes the pretensions of Brussels.

Obama’s suggestion that the EU ‘is part of the institutions built after World War II that has made the world safer’ is a wilful misinterpretation. It was Nato, not the EU, which kept the peace in Europe (and safeguarded its eastern borders).

The irrelevance of EU institutions to the critical issue of security was highlighted last week when Turkey and Germany called for warships to intercept and deter the smugglers of migrants from the Middle East.

To whom did they make this request? To Nato, the American-dominated military alliance, of which the UK was a member long before we joined the EU.

Similarly, when the Polish foreign minister said his country’s acceptance of British demands for a scaling back of tax credits paid to EU migrants would be conditional on getting more protection against Putin’s rapidly expanding army, did he call for that protection to come from the ‘EU rapid reaction force’?

Far from it. He meant, and said, Nato.

Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama in Ohio as they watch a basketball game in 2012


 Bear this in mind when you hear Cameron argue — perhaps as he stands side by side with President Obama outside No 10 Downing Street in the spring — that it is our membership of the EU which guarantees Britain’s security in a dangerous world.

This is not an argument that we should abandon the EU on the assumption we can restore what used to be called the Special Relationship.

That boat left long ago — decades before Obama decided the bust of Winston Churchill, which his predecessor George W. Bush kept in the Oval Office, was surplus to requirements.

It was in 1962 that Dean Acheson, the former U.S. Secretary of State, made the much-quoted remark: ‘Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role. The attempt to play a separate power role — that is, a role apart from Europe … this role is about played out.’

Rather less well-known is the response by the furious British prime minister, Harold Macmillan, that, in under-estimating Britain’s ability to stand up for itself, Acheson was committing ‘an error which had been made by quite a lot of people in the past 400 years, including Philip of Spain, Louis XIV, Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler’.

I wish our current PM were equally unwilling to indulge American leaders who claim Britain can have no international role other than as part of the EU.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3447286/DOMINIC-LAWSON-ear-bashing-Obama-Europe-just-make-keen-quit.html

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