Obama sharpens Brexit warning in parting shot

24th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

US President Barack Obama has sharpened his warnings about Britain's reduced global influence should it quit the EU, warning it could take 10 years to reach a UK-US trade deal.

Obama said Britain would have "less influence globally" if it votes to leave the European Union in the June 23 referendum on membership of the 28-country bloc.

The president was speaking in a BBC television interview broadcast on Sunday, the final day of his four-day trip to Britain, before leaving for Germany.

On the prospect of Britain reaching a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States, Obama said "it could be five years from now, 10 years from now before we were able to actually get something done."

"The UK would not be able to negotiate something with the United States faster than the EU," he said.

"We wouldn't abandon our efforts to negotiate a trade deal with our largest trading partner, the European market.

"Our preference would be to work with this large bloc of countries."

Obama's view that Britain should stay in the EU is shared by fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton, the front-runner to be the party's pick for November's presidential election.

"Hillary Clinton believes that transatlantic cooperation is essential, and that cooperation is strongest when Europe is united," Jake Sullivan, the former secretary of state's senior policy adviser, told The Observer newspaper.

"She has always valued a strong United Kingdom in a strong EU. And she values a strong British voice in the EU."

Obama's comments are the latest in a series of stark warnings about the consequences of Britain ditching its EU membership that have poured fuel on an already heated debate and prompted a furious response from anti-EU campaigners.

They have portrayed Obama as meddling, but he appears to have decided it was more important to pitch in with his view.

Washington fears Britain exiting the EU would close off of a key conduit of US influence in Europe.

After talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who wants Britain to stay in the EU, Obama warned London would go to the "back" of the trade queue with the United States if Brexit occurred.

Obama's fresh intervention triggered another furious response from the Leave campaign.

"This is really about a lame duck US president about to move off the stage doing an old British friend a favour," said Justice Minister Dominic Raab.

"I think the British will be first in the queue, not at the back."

© 2016 AFP

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