Iain Duncan Smith has defended Boris Johnson’s use of the term “part-Kenyan” to describe Barack Obama and said the government told the President to issue his warning that Britain would not be able to strike a UK-US trade deal if it votes for Brexit.
The former work and pensions secretary, who resigned in protest at the government’s proposals to change disability benefits in the Budget last month, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Johnson was “correct” in his critique of Obama’s intervention in the EU referendum debate last week.
Asked specifically what he thought about Johnson’s reference to Obama as “part-Kenyan” Duncan Smith said: “He simply referred to some of the reasons why he may have a particular lack of regard for the United Kingdom.”
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In The Sun last week, Johnson criticised the President for removing a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office:
Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.
The comments were branded “disgraceful” by Labour MP Chuka Umunna. Fellow Brexit campaigner, Ukip leader Nigel Farage questioned the phrase and said Boris seemed to be “attacking the man, not the ball”.
Barack Obama responded directly to the accusation last week when he said he "loved" Winston Churchill and had the bust moved to his private residence to make space for one of Martin Luther King Jr in the Oval Office.
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Duncan Smith also said that he believed David Cameron had personally asked Barack Obama to issue his warning that Britain would be “at the back of the queue” for trade negotiations if it left the EU.
Imagining the Prime Minister’s request, Duncan Smith said Cameron probably asked: “‘Barack, will you please just go out and emphasise the point that there’s a queue and you’ll be at the back of it.’”
Obama’s intervention into the campaign has led to the odds of a Brexit lengthening and the pound strengthening against the dollar.