Obama warns Brexit could mean 10-year wait for UK trade deal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 April, 2016, 12:21pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 April, 2016, 12:21pm

US President Barack Obama leaned in further on his warning to the British electorate against embracing a so-called Brexit from the European Union, saying it could take as long as 10 years before the UK and the US negotiated a new trade agreement.

‘The UK would not be able to negotiate something with the United States faster than the EU,” Obama told the BBC in an interview published on Saturday. “We wouldn’t abandon our efforts to negotiate a trade deal with our largest trading partner, the European market. But rather, it could be could be five years from now, 10 years now before we were actually able get something done.”

The president’s remarks were the most detailed he’s made yet in addressing the argument that a Brexit would hurt the British economy by delaying its ability to ink a trade deal with the US Obama, who said Friday that Britons would be at the “back of the queue” in negotiating a trade agreement with the US separately from the EU, indicated that the queue may last a decade.

US President Barack Obama warns Brexit would leave Britain at ‘back of the queue’ when negotiating trade deals

The comments extended the rare intervention of a U.S. president into another nation’s domestic politics. On Friday, Obama stood beside Prime Minister David Cameron to admonish the British electorate about the perils of embracing an isolationist stance.

Cameron invited Obama to visit the UK, just about two months before British voters choose whether to terminate their membership in the EU in a vote set for June 23.

In speaking out against Brexit, Obama drew on the long history of relations between the US and the UK But not everyone in Britain has been happy to hear the American president’s opinions.

Brexit backer and London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote in The Sun newspaper that Obama’s intervention was “downright hypocritical.” He suggested the “part-Kenyan” president might dislike Britain’s imperial legacy - a comment that drew widespread criticism.

“The Americans would never contemplate anything like the EU for themselves or for their neighbours, in their own hemisphere,” Johnson wrote. “Why should they think it right for us?”

Ipsos Mori polling data show the British public split over whether Obama should express his opinion on the June 23 referendum, with 49 per cent saying he should and 46 per cent saying he shouldn’t. Separately, the bookmaker Ladbrokes Plc on Friday said that 90 per cent of all bets taken in the past two days have been for “Remain”. The prospects of a “Leave” vote fell to 29 per cent from 34 per cent, it said.

Other polls show that young people largely support the UK staying in the EU, but are also less likely to show up to vote than other groups. The referendum will be held while many young people will be attending graduations or the Glastonbury Festival, a five-day music and performing arts event.