President Barack Obama made an appeal to Britons on Thursday in an op-ed for The Telegraph, outlining the benefits of the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union as the country is set to consider a referendum on its withdrawal.
Obama, who arrived in London on Thursday afternoon, will meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron and dine with Queen Elizabeth II and the duke and duchess of Cambridge, followed by a news conference and a town hall with British young people.
The president’s op-ed comes despite more than 100 members of Parliament signing a letter telling Obama not to interfere” in Britain’s domestic affairs, and amid considerable blowback after he appeared to suggest in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that the UK isn’t upholding its end of the transatlantic alliance.
“I realise that there’s been considerable speculation — and some controversy — about the timing of my visit. And I confess: I do want to wish Her Majesty a happy birthday in person,” Obama writes. “But also I understand that there’s a spirited campaign under way here. My country is going through much the same.”
Obama continues, “ultimately, the question of whether or not the UK remains a part of the EU is a matter for British voters to decide for yourselves.”
But, he adds, “I will say, with the candour of a friend, that the outcome of your decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States.”
“In this complicated, connected world, the challenges facing the EU — migration, economic inequality, the threats of terrorism and climate change — are the same challenges facing the United States and other nations,” Obama writes. “And in today’s world, even as we all cherish our sovereignty, the nations who wield their influence most effectively are the nations that do it through the collective action that today’s challenges demand.”
The president describes the two nations’ long history, saying “the United Kingdom remains a friend and ally to the United States like no other” and three times referring to their “special relationship.” He goes on to cite the collaboration of the United States, the United Nations Security Council and Germany in negotiating the Iran nuclear deal, the EU’s push to pass the Paris agreement on climate change and the benefits of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership for Europe.
“This kind of cooperation — from intelligence sharing and counterterrorism to forging agreements to create jobs and economic growth — will be far more effective if it extends across Europe. Now is a time for friends and allies to stick together,” Obama wrote.
The referendum on EU membership will take place June 23.