Bremain or Brexit? It is unlikely that Obama’s intervention will have any pivotal effect

President Barack Obama visits Britain do you think that his expected intervention may have some impact on EU referendum campaing or probably not, and why? Read few comments.

Robert Busby, Senior Lecturer in Politics, Liverpool Hope University

Obama has made it plainly clear that he considers that the best interests of the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States is for the United Kingdom to remain part of the European Union. This is evidently part of a wider consideration of the maintenance of a symbolic unity among the states of the west, particularly when faced with a resurgent Russia. His visit to Great Britain offers a timely opportunity to endorse the views of Prime Minister Cameron that Britain should remain part of a reformed Europe.

In part Obama sees the interests of the United States and its relationship enhanced by having a close ally like Britain as a strong linkage between the continents. This extends across issues of security, the stability of the economy and global markets, and the possible ramifications for Europe if other states decide that the example set by Britain is one that might be followed. While comments by Obama will undoubtedly make the press, as it is inevitable that he will be asked for his views, whether they actually have any impact is doubtful.

Those in favour of a Brexit will argue that Obama has no place to intervene in a debate between Europe and Britain, and it represent little more than a tacit endorsement of Cameron. Additionally in the final year of his presidency Obama can be cast as an increasingly irrelevant figure in international politics.

For those who wish to remain in the European Union Obama represents another figure of esteem, and one with experience, who can be cast as having the insight into the consequences of separation. Whether Obama’s viewpoint will have any influence on opinion polls or on the final decision by those engaged with the referendum is however unclear. There are so many viewpoints and voices that it is unlikely that Obama’s intervention will have any pivotal effect or transform the current discussion. It will certainly be exploited by the political elite in the scramble to try and gain an advantage, but it is doubtful that his views will alter the opinions of the men and women who will cast the final vote.

Kristian SteinnesProfessor, Department of Historical Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

I think that Obama’s intervention or remarks on Britain’s position in Europe and the EU, and the world, may influence the campaign to a certain extent. How much is of course impossible to tell.

The main reason, I believe, is the so-called ‘special relationship’, which has been a solid foundation for Anglo-American relations since the second world war. Obama have pointed to the second world war in his comments, for example by pointing to American soldiers resting in European soil in defence of democracy and British independence.

In my view, the ‘special relationship’ is an important strand of British foreign (and thus national) policies despite having a rather low profile in everyday politics. Britain is Europe’s strongest military power. The clout of Britain working with the US might be perceived by the British public as an important plank of British foreign, security and power politics. Britain would in Cameron’s argument be less secure if the UK leave the EU. Taken together with the ‘special relationship’, it might influence the Remain campaign in a positive way, in the sense that Britain is better off and more secure as a member of the EU. Obama’s remarks might add to this perception, not least due to Anglo-American relations seen in a longer perspective.

 

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