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.