Voters! Hold-up! Stop worrying about that pesky decision about what our future relationship with the EU should look like. You don’t need to worry about exercising your democratic right in the UK, the President of the United States wants the UK to stay in the EU come what may. Phew, glad that’s settled.
Ok. So I may have let my cynicism get away with me there, but judging by the reaction of some EU supporters, you would think God himself had decreed that Britain should remain in at all costs.
Yes, there is no doubt this is a significant intervention, albeit one that represents the orthodoxy of the US State Department for the last couple of decades. But the charisma of Obama (apparently he focus groups well in the UK) should not prevent us from questioning the motives, reasoning and accuracy of the outgoing President’s statement.
Let’s start with motives for making such a statement to the BBC. It is odd for a foreign leader to intervene in the domestic affairs of another nation. Can you imagine if David Cameron went on NBC and said 'vote Hillary' or 'tighten your gun laws?' There would be uproar across the Atlantic.
It will be interesting to see how the British public outside the SW1 bubble react. But let’s not pretend that Obama is somehow making this intervention for the good of the British people.
He’s doing what he perceives is the interests of the US. You can understand, given America is faced by an EU that is increasingly hostile to US interests - look at the EU’s treatment of US tech firms, its reaction to US spying revelations and its constant attempts to position itself as a rival to US power - that the White House wants its oldest ally at the heart of EU politics, acting as a counterbalance to European elites that dislike much of what America stands for. But that does not mean it is in the interests of the UK to be shackled to the EU’s political structures.
Ok. So the President might not be acting in Britain's interests, but is his implication right; would we lose influence outside of the EU?
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that no we would not, in fact quite the opposite. A whole series of chapters in our publication 'Change, or Go' that show how Britain would gain influence outside of an unreformed EU.
From gaining positions on international bodies that we have abandoned to the EU to returning powers and control that currently reside in Brussels back to the UK, there is clear evidence that Britain’s global position would be enhanced outside of an EU that is sadly focused on regionalisation, not globalisation.
The question in the referendum is not whether it is in America's interest but whether it is in Britain's interest to be in the EU. That is something British voters and businesses will be better able to judge than any US president.
It is wrong to define Britain’s special relationship with the US in terms of EU. This is yet another attempt to rewrite history and suggest that Britain's strengths are drawn from the EU rather than being her own.
Britain’s relationship with the US has traditionally been built on shared cultural values, a close intelligence relationship, shared military goals and abilities and our permanent position on the UN Security Council.
When it comes to EU, it is Germany who by default the US looks to in terms of influence because it is the Germans who guarantee the Eurozone's bills. The key features of both these close relationships won’t change because of a referendum, one way or another.
What the US does want is a competitive EU willing to fill its role in the international stage and open to trade with the US. The EU is failing at these things.
Sadly anti-Americanism is still prevalent in Europe, even among prominent pro-EU campaigners in the UK. Currently US companies are shunned on the continent (Google), the EU is dragging its feet on completing TTIP and it has consistently failed to step up when faced by major conflicts. This is why Britain wants significant changes in the EU if we are to stay in.
The message from the US to EU leaders should therefore be to engage properly with David Cameron’s renegotiation, rather than expecting the UK to stay ‘In’ come what may.