5 Jun 2014

Obama: ‘Hard to imagine’ it would serve Britain to leave EU

US president Barack Obama says it would be “hard to imagine” that it would be in Britain’s interests to leave the EU, and hints that the US would prefer Scotland not to vote for independence.

Mr Obama said the US valued the presence of its close ally at the top table in the EU and he did not believe it would be good for the 28-member bloc for Britain to leave.

His comments came at a press conference with Prime Minister David Cameron at the conclusion of a G7 summit in Brussels.

Asked whether he thought the UK should vote to quit in the referendum promised by Mr Cameron for 2017, Mr Obama said: “With respect to the EU, we share a strategic vision with Great Britain on a whole range of international issues and so it’s always encouraging for us to know that Great Britain has a seat at the table in the larger European project.”

“I think in light of the events that we are going to be commemorating tomorrow, it’s important to recall that it was the steadfastness of Great Britain that in part allows us to be here in Brussels in the seat of a unified and extraordinarily prosperous Europe.

“It’s hard for me to imagine that project going well in the absence of Great Britain and I think it’s also hard for me to imagine that it would be advantageous for Great Britain to be excluded from political decisions that have an enormous impact on its economic and political life.

“This is why we have elections, and we’ll see the arguments made, and I’m sure the people of Great Britain will make the right decision.”

Asked by journalists for his thoughts on the question of Scottish independence, Mr Obama said it was up to the people of Scotland. But he chose to add “The United Kingdom has been an extraordinary partner to us. From the outside at least, it looks like things have worked pretty well.

“And we obviously have a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner.”

His words were seized on by the no campaign, which immediately tweeted a version of the famous “hope” poster created for the Obama election campaign, rewritten to read “nope”.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond responded to Mr Obama’s comments, saying “when Scotland becomes independent, America will have two allies instead of one.”