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03/12/2016

Obama urges UK to stay in EU

UK & Europe

Obama urges UK to stay in EU

Barack Obama: "Greeks needs hope"

[White House]

US President Barack Obama told the BBC in an interview excerpt that aired Thursday (23 July) that Britain must remain in the European Union to maintain its global influence.

Britain’s EU membership “gives us much greater confidence about the strength of the transatlantic union,” Obama said, adding that the EU, as “part of the institutions built after World War II” had “made the world safer and more prosperous”.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, seeking to end a decades-old rift within his Conservative Party over Britain’s place in Europe, has promised to negotiate a new settlement with Brussels and hold a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017.

Obama also said the UK was America’s “best partner” because of its willingness to project power beyond its “immediate self-interests to make this a more orderly, safer world”.

He also congratulated the British government for meeting the NATO target of spending 2% of the country’s national income – GDP – on defence. He denied putting pressure on Mr Cameron to meet that target but said there had been an “honest conversation” between the two leaders.

Of the remaining European NATO countries only Estonia has reached the 2% target and Poland is at 1.95%. Germany is at 1.08% and France at 1.5%.

Obama added in an another excerpt from the interview that his biggest frustration was the failure to pass “common-sense gun safety laws” in the United States “even in the face of repeated mass killings.”

“If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it’s less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it’s in the tens of thousands,” Obama said in the White House interview.

“For us not to be able to resolve that issue has been something that is distressing,” he said. 

Obama was speaking to the BBC at the White House before departing for Kenya, where he begins a short tour of Africa on Friday.

Background

Britain’s governing Conservative party won an absolute majority in the UK general election on 7 May 2015. With 12 more MPs than the other parties combined, the Conservatives no longer have to rely on a coalition partner.

Prime Minister David Cameron promised to renegotiate the UK's relations with the European Union. The renegotiation will be followed by a referendum by the end of 2017, to decide whether or not the United Kingdom should remain in the EU.

If he achieves the reforms, Cameron will campaign to stay in. Otherwise, the Conservatives might campaign to leave the EU. This decision could have far-reaching consequences for trade, investment and Great Britain's position on the international scene.

Some other European countries are ready to listen to Cameron's concerns on issues such as immigration, and may be prepared to make limited concessions to keep Britain in the bloc.

But EU leaders also have their red lines, and have ruled out changing fundamental EU principles, such as the free movement of workers, and a ban on discriminating between workers from different EU states.

>> Read our LinksDossier: The UK's EU referendum: On the path to Brexit?

Further Reading