Obama provides a unique opportunity to discover how the world sees the UK
Justin Protts, 22 April 2016
When the president of the most powerful country in the world comes to the UK to offer advice on the biggest choice facing the British people, it provides a unique opportunity to discover how the world sees the UK.
Writing in The Telegraph, Obama candidly states that, ‘‘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.” He is no doubt correct in his assessment of the challenges, but he makes it clear, that as with much of the world, he sees the EU as an effective nation state, choosing to compare the issues of the EU with those ‘other nations’. If the nations of the EU were still truly independent countries, a more fair comparison would have been with ‘North America and other regions of the world,’ but no one on the outside, least of all our closest ally, sees the EU as a collection of independent countries, rather a new supranational state.
This painful assessment of the UK’s place in the global order is inadvertently shown again when Obama refers to international efforts in Iran, stating that it was ‘’working together with the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, that got the job done. And the EU’s seat at the table magnified the United Kingdom’s voice.’’ Has Obama forgotten that the UK has a seat on the UN Security Council, independent of EU membership? Surely, if the UK were viewed as an independent nation, the assessment would be that ‘the UK’s seat at the table strengthened the EU’s voice.’
Again Obama writes, ‘’When the climate agreement in Paris needed a push, it was the European Union, fortified by the United Kingdom, that ultimately helped make that agreement possible.’’ It is evidence that the world sees the EU act, and the UK is just a part of it that makes it stronger. The UK would have had a stronger, more independent voice had it been represented by its own government, not that of an increasingly powerful supranational government. Obama’s words, despite being couched in praise for the UK and our special relationship with the US, provide a clear signal that the rest of the world sees the UK as only one part of the EU and no longer respects it as a truly independent and self-governing nation.
Obama also seriously undermined the importance of the referendum, offering his assessment of the current situation by saying, ‘’there’s a spirited campaign under way here. My country is going through much the same.’’ The US is undergoing a regular election, which is guaranteed on a 4-year cycle, to give Americans the choice to remove their elected government. The UK is being given one opportunity to remove a government that has grown more powerful and diminished the voice of the UK in the EU. It is the first vote the UK will have on whether the UK wants to be part of the new European Union, where decisions at an EU level can overrule all areas on UK government policy, with the exception of defence and security, though the EU is trying here too.
Obama’s view of this as just another campaign and a regular election is upsetting, and reflects views elsewhere in the world, showing that the decision facing the British people is not being appreciated for what it truly is.
It is worth noting that Obama makes clear that the ‘’United Kingdom remains a friend and ally to the United States like no other. Our special relationship was forged as we spilt blood together on the battlefield.’’ Those who are worried about our international relations must remember that the UK is a proud strong country that has friends and allies across the world, in spite of EU membership, not because of it.
Finally Obama ends on an interesting paragraph:
‘’Together, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union have turned centuries of war in Europe into decades of peace, and worked as one to make this world a safer, better place. What a remarkable legacy that is. And what a remarkable legacy we will leave when, together, we meet the challenges of this young century as well.’’
If the United Kingdom votes to leave, everything written in that paragraph holds true. The UK has a remarkable legacy, a legacy that has been true both inside and outside the EU. The world now sees the United Kingdom as just a fairly influential state governed by the EU. It is worth remembering that the only way to change this, and to be viewed again as an independent country, is for the UK to leave the EU.