Sammy Wilson: It will be a mistake if Obama interferes in our EU vote

Sammy Wilson, far right, at the Grassroots Out rally in Belfast ealier this month with Jim Allister, Kate Hoey, Nigel Farage, David McNarry and Peter Bone (Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Sammy Wilson, far right, at the Grassroots Out rally in Belfast ealier this month with Jim Allister, Kate Hoey, Nigel Farage, David McNarry and Peter Bone (Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)

On his next visit to London the President of the United States, Barack Obama, is expected to make a keynote speech intervening in our European Union referendum.

It will be a big mistake if he does.

Note that I say that irrespective of whether he says we should remain members of the EU or leave to regain our full sovereignty.

That’s because the issue is not about what side he suggests we should support but about a foreign power, albeit a friendly one, seeking to influence our decision for the benefit of what they believe is in their own interests.

Over the last eighty years there has developed what is called a ‘special relationship’ between the United States and the United Kingdom.

Whether Presidents and Prime Ministers believe it is is real or imaginary the reality is that we do work together on a great many issues of security and international relations – but these have nothing to do with our membership of the European Union.

The blood that our forebears spilled defending our freedom happened before the EU was conceived and our mutual security has developed through NATO and the exchange of security intelligence from the likes of GCHQ.

I believe that being in a political union like the EU that seeks to supplant NATO and set itself up as a rival rather than a partner to the United States does not serve our special relationship.

The support that successive Presidents have given to the EU project can probably be explained by their desire to answer Henry Kissinger’s famous question: “Who do I call if I want to speak to Europe?”

It’s not difficult to see why the United States might prefer to deal with a single foreign policy representative, a single regulator and a single trade delegation than with twenty-eight, but Americans who treasure their own democracy and independence will appreciate that we must put what’s best for our own country first in this referendum, not what their government finds convenient.

No President of the United States – a country that guards its sovereignty zealously – would recommend plunging itself into a Pan-American Political Union, with a Court of Justice in Toronto empowered to overrule its own Supreme Court, an unelected Commission in Guatemala dictating trade policy, and the borders thrown open to Mexico, Honduras, awhile paying billions for the privilege. And yet that is what Barack Obama apparently believes we should do.

The very idea is laughable, and any frontline American politician who advocated it would be dismissed as beyond eccentric; banished to the margins of political life or run out of Washington DC.

Indeed EU-style arrangements even within the confines of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) enjoy almost no popular support in the United States, with polls finding less than a third of Americans in favour of Free Movement with Mexico and fewer than a fifth in favour of a joint Canadian-Mexican-US court to rule on Human Rights questions.

So why is an American president coming to the UK to recommend that the British public continue to submit to an arrangement that he could never accept for his own country?

Surely he would not make such a crass intervention unless our own Foreign and Commonwealth Office had requested his help and support through the US State Department?

Is the President’s intended speech yet another aspect of the choreographed Project Fear being run from Downing Street?

Barack Obama might believe he should speak to us, but he can’t speak for us. Any intervention is likely to generate anti-American feeling amongst the British public and undermine support for the Atlantic alliance.

Giving voice to what he regards as in his own country’s national interest may actually harm our joint interests rather than promote them.

The President needs to be aware of these risks and that is why, with my parliamentary colleagues, I wrote to him this week. He should recognise the dangers of what he is about to do and step back from the brink.

• Sammy Wilson is DUP MP for East Antrim and a supporter of Grassroots Out