from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Obama and Brexit

April 29, 2016

Blog Post

I’ve written before about the mistake the President made by intervening in the decision British citizens must make in June about leaving the EU. But in addition to questioning the wisdom, one might wonder about the impact.

Answer: none, or a slight lift to the "Leave the EU" arguments the President meant to weaken. Here is John O’Sullivan in National Review:

 

The first opinion-poll results on President Obama’s intervention in the Brexit debate since he left London for Germany and the EU summit have now been published. They show two things of interest: a small movement toward the Leave campaign, and a clear majority of voters who disapproved of the president’s intervention.

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Of four polls, all four shifted toward Leave, by between one and four percentage points. That still left Remain ahead in two polls, and Leave in the other two (but by smaller numbers, in or close to the margin of error). Probably the fairest interpretation is that Remain is slightly ahead but Leave is closing a small gap and that Obama helped to close it further. Disapproval of Obama’s intervention is far clearer, however. Majorities of 55 and 60 percent were critical. This popular response was expressed in a cartoon of Obama seated opposite the Queen at a Palace dining table, saying airily, “She’ll have the fish” — as the Queen winces and the butler staggers back in horror.

 

In other words, Mr. Obama hurt the cause he came to advance. This is not terribly surprising. First, it was not really his business to instruct Brits how to vote on this matter. Second, he went about it crudely, threatening that if Britain left the EU and then sought a free trade agreement with the United States, they would be put at the bottom of the queue.

This is reminiscent of his intervention in the selection of Chicago as the city for the 2016 Summer Olympics: he flew to Copenhagen to address the International Olympic Committee, made a personal bid....and Chicago came in fourth. Whoever thinks these personal interventions are likely to work needs to think again.

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