Obama,  UK Politics

Obama’s “threat”

Guest post by Sackcloth & Ashes

Following Obama’s remarks on BREXIT– and the hysteria being whipped up about them– I thought Harry’s Place’s readers might wish to see the transcript of his speech and the ensuing press conference, rather than relying on any version supplied by the Mayor of London (who has faced his own challenges about accuracy in reporting) or the Daily Express.

The cause of all this originates with a question for the current POTUS from Chris Ship of ITN. For the benefit of anyone unprepared to wade through my link, the relevant part of his response is quoted here:

Q: Mr. President, you, yourself, acknowledge the controversial timing of your comments on the EU referendum and the spirited debate that we’re having here. And I think you’re right. In the weeks before your arrival here, Leave campaigners have said that you’re acting hypocritically. America would not accept the loss of sovereignty that we have to accept as part of the EU. America would not accept the levels of immigration from Mexico that we have to accept from the EU. And therefore, in various degrees of politeness, they have said to you that you should really keep your views to yourself. With that in mind, Mr. President, do you still think it was the right decision to intervene in this debate? And can I ask you this — truthfully, what happens if the UK does decide in June to leave the European Union?

A: Well, firsts (sic) of all, let me repeat, this is a decision for the people of the United Kingdom to make. I’m not coming here to fix any votes. I’m not casting a vote myself. I’m offering my opinion. And in democracies, everybody should want more information, not less. And you shouldn’t be afraid to hear an argument being made. That’s not a threat. That should enhance the debate.

Particularly because my understanding is that some of the folks on the other side have been ascribing to the United States certain actions we’ll take if the UK does leave the EU. So they say, for example, that, well, we’ll just cut our own trade deals with the United States. So they’re voicing an opinion about what the United States is going to do. I figured you might want to hear it from the President of the United States what I think the United States is going to do. (Laughter.)

And on that matter, for example, I think it’s fair to say that maybe some point down the line, there might be a UK-U.S. trade agreement, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon, because our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union, to get a trade agreement done, and the UK is going to be in the back of the queue– not because we don’t have a special relationship, but because, given the heavy lift on any trade agreement, us having access to a big market with a lot of countries– rather than trying to do piecemeal trade agreements is hugely inefficient.

Now, to the subject at hand, obviously the United States is in a different hemisphere, different circumstances, has different sets of relationships with its neighbors than the UK does. But I can tell you this. If, right now, I’ve got access to a massive market where I sell 44 percent of my exports, and now I’m thinking about leaving the organization that gives me access to that market and that is responsible for millions of jobs in my country and responsible for an enormous amount of commerce and upon which a lot of businesses depend, that’s not something I’d probably do.

And what I’m trying to describe is a broader principle, which is, in our own ways– I mean, we don’t have a common market in the Americas– but in all sorts of ways, the United States constrains itself in order to bind everyone under a common set of norms and rules that makes everybody more prosperous.

That’s what we built after World War II. The United States and the UK designed a set of institutions– whether it was the United Nations, or the Bretton Woods structure, IMF, World Bank, NATO, across the board. Now, that, to some degree, constrained our freedom to operate. It meant that occasionally we had to deal with some bureaucracy. It meant that on occasion we have to persuade other countries, and we don’t get 100 percent of what we want in each case. But we knew that by doing so, everybody was going to be better off– partly because the norms and rules that were put in place were reflective of what we believe. If there were more free markets around the world, and an orderly financial system, we knew we could operate in that environment. If we had collective defense treaties through NATO, we understood that we could formalize an architecture that would deter aggression, rather than us having, piecemeal, to put together alliances to defeat aggression after it already started. And that principle is what’s at stake here.

If anyone considers anything in this response to be a ‘threat’, perhaps they can explain why this is the case in the comments below. And then perhaps, they may wish to apply to join the NUS, as it seems that an institution that bans clapping can provide the only safe place for anyone so easily intimidated.