Europe News

Obama’s last hurrah in Europe, but UK’s not happy

Obama's to-do list as he visits Europe
Obama's to-do list as he visits Europe

U.S. President Barack Obama is in Europe for what could be his last trip to the region before his presidency ends in November following an U.S. election.

Obama landed in London on Thursday evening and will use his visit to highlight the "special relationship" between the U.K. and U.S. and to make a call for the U.K. to remain in the European Union, ahead of a closely-fought referendum on the subject due to be held on June 23.

"The European Union doesn't moderate British influence - it magnifies it," he wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper. "The United States sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic…Now is a time for friends and allies to stick together," he said.

The president is due to have lunch at Windsor Castle with Queen Elizabeth, who celebrated her 90th birthday on Thursday, and her husband Prince Philip and will then travel to meet Prime Minister David Cameron before a press briefing at 1730p.m. London time.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama walk the Colonnade from the Oval Office to the Residence for a working dinner at the White House in Washington January 15, 2015.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Obama is expected to comment on the risks should the U.K. electorate vote to leave the EU with terrorism, migration and the economy risks is expected to associate with leaving. Polls currently show a close vote between "Leave" and "Remain" voters but the latter camp have the lead.

The U.S. and U.K. have traditionally enjoyed a close friendship and Cameron, who is leading the call for Britain to remain a part of a reformed EU, will appreciate Obama's support but those on the opposing side are not happy with Obama's intervention.

'Butt out'

There are those in the British political establishment, particularly those in the "Leave" camp that favor a "Brexit" – or U.K. leaving the 28-member bloc, that think Obama shouldn't "meddle" with U.K. affairs.

London Mayor and prominent "Leave" campaigner Boris Johnson said on Friday that Obama was guilty of hypocrisy and has landed himself in hot water after an opinion piece published Friday included claims that the U.S. President Barack Obama dislikes Britain because of his ancestry.

Last week, Johnson told one newspaper that the U.S. would never allow another power to compromise its own sovereignty.

"I honestly don't mind the idea of him joining the debate," Johnson told the Standard newspaper last week. "Where we do part company, and where I do mind, is that it is plainly hypocritical for America to urge us to sacrifice control — of our laws, our sovereignty, our money and our democracy — when they would not dream of ever doing the same.

Meanwhile, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, has said in no uncertain terms that, "President Obama should butt out."

Emphasizing that that the U.K. is currently high on the list of European allies, Obama is due to travel onwards to Hanover in Germany on Sunday to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Cameron will join them too.

The meeting will be "informal" and Syria, the migrant crisis and security concerns over Libya are expected to be talking points.

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