No you can’t!

Barack Obama writes in the Daily Telegraph that the UK should vote to remain in the EU. Charles Moore’s rejoinder is here. What have I to add to this? Just a couple of observations.

Obama’s points about security and prosperity simply echo those of the remain campaign. Should we give them more credence than the views of British Cabinet Ministers on either side of the debate? Does he know more about the British economy than George Osborne, or Michael Gove? I am sure he knows about American security, but does he know more about British security than Sir Richard Dearlove?

My guess would be that those sections of his article were drafted by aides who simply based them upon what Cameron and the rest of the Remainian establishment have written and said. We probably get closer to Obama’s personal views, and the real American interest in the issue, in this passage:

“The United States sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic. So the US and the world need your outsized influence to continue – including within Europe”.

The UK is seen by the US as a moderating force within the EU, bending it in an atlanticist direction. Clearly there is a worry that the EU could become less open, less outward looking and less linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic. That is because it is not really any of those things at present. It is the fact that the EU is closed (with a protectionist external tariff and no trade deals with the five largest non-EU economies) and inward looking (focussed on its ideological project of political union irrespective of the costs) that has caused the UK to lose patience with it. Will that get worse if the UK leaves? Probably. But it won’t be anything like as much our problem as it is now.

So it makes perfect sense that Americans see it as being in their interests that we remain in the EU. But that does not mean it is in our interests. Obama shows no sign of appreciating what we have to give up – such as the sovereignty of our Parliament, the independence of our laws and control of our borders – in order to remain. The EU is failing, economically and politically. The British PM has to run around 28 capitals in order to change our own child benefit rules, or reduce the tax on tampons. The price has simply become too high. As Obama concedes, that decision is for the British people to make.

In other comments made during his visit, Obama has suggested it could take up to ten years to negotiate a bilateral trade deal between the UK and the US, and that the UK would be at “the back of the queue”

First, what queue? Are we to believe the US has only one team of diplomats capable of negotiating a trade deal? And that they are constrained to operate on a first-come-first-served basis? The “queue” is figurative. Obama wants us to remain and he is not going to give any help to the leave campaign. But if his successor wants a trade deal with the UK – and they export more to us than to any other european country – then there is no reason that could not happen on a much shorter timescale than it has taken to negotiate TTIP (still pending) with the 28 nations of the EU.

And what happens if we do not have a trade deal with the US? Then we carry on trading exactly as we do now, without a trade deal, under WTO rules, with tariffs of around 3%. As we on the leave side keep pointing out, it is not necessary to have a trade deal to trade.