Obama butts in on Britain’s referendum

May 2, 2016

Obama isn't the only Western leader who's pushing his opinion that Britain needs to stay in the European Union, says Belfast Telegraph columnist Eamonn McCann.

LAST YEAR Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the U.S. and addressed a meeting of the Houses of Congress. President Barack Obama made no secret of his displeasure at Netanyahu arranging to speak to Congress without having sought, must less received, White House approval.

Obama's feelings were exacerbated when the Israeli leader urged members of Congress to bin the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal. The leader of one country campaigning in another for reversal of a specified policy went far beyond the bounds of precedent, protocol and standard practice. Even politicians supportive of Israel took umbrage.

The pro-Israeli Washington lobby group J-Street wrote to supporters saying that "a foreign leader lobbying Congress is inappropriate," and warning of possibly negative consequences for the Israeli cause.

So, how come it's deemed okay for Obama, during a visit to Britain, to call for a Remain vote in the European Union (EU) referendum? How does that differ in principle from Netanyahu's intervention in the U.S.?

President Obama
President Obama (Bill Ingalls)

Part of the answer has to do with the fact that every major financial and business organization seems gung-ho for Britain staying in--the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Confederation of British Industry, the Bank of England, BMW, Deutsche Bank, etc., etc.

Angela Merkel, François Hollande and other EU leaders, right down to Enda Kenny, have taken the same stand. Obama was harmonizing with a global choir of capitalist institutions.

Additionally, it seems that national leaders weighing in to support one another has become the new normal. This reflects the global nature of the economic and financial crisis. They have to hang together, or hang apart--apart from unimportant countries like Greece, which can just go hang.

Also last week, Tony Blair's closest sidekick Alastair Campbell was in Dublin speaking to a meeting of the Irish Business and Employers' Confederation (IBEC). This is the same Campbell who has cheerfully admitted authorship of a claim on the eve of a Commons' vote that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction against British targets within 15 minutes of an order being issued.

There was no truth in this, but it helped spook a number of MPs into supporting Blair in his crusade to invade Iraq.

The invasion and consequent disintegration of Iraqi state structures prepared the ground for the emergence of Islamic State. But Campbell wasn't off-put by that. Leaving the EU would play into the hands of Islamic State he warned--the most brazen denial of his own role since Judas Iscariot tried to wriggle out of responsibility for touting on Jesus.

Campbell's fee for talking to IBEC won't have matched the fantabulous sums paid to the money-mad Hillary Clinton. But it won't have been chump change, either.

The former storyteller went on to ask Irish people with relatives working in Britain to call them and explain that Brexit would spell doom for the Republic.

THIS BLATANT interference in the affairs of the sovereign Irish state by a senior British political figure on the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising has escaped criticism from Irish politicians and media commentators. If the Turkish authorities urged the three million German residents with at least one parent from Turkey, including more than 1.5 million Turkish citizens, to vote in a particular way in an election or referendum there would be hell to pay.

But all bets are off when it comes to backing EU membership.

The Europhiles now regularly weigh in with what in effect are pleas to foreign electorates to vote for particular parties. In the Sunday Independent last weekend the Teachta Dála and commentator Shane Ross recalled that, a month before the Republic's election on February 26, David Cameron wrote to Kenny saying that he "looked forward to working with you in the months and years ahead." Didn't even think to make it subtle.

On the day before the election, Cameron wrote and released to the Press a letter to Kenny expressing "my very good wishes for tomorrow's election."

None of this would have happened just a few years ago.

No doubt, good wishes were privately exchanged between political elites. But calling publicly and specifically for a vote for a particular party or proposition would have been beyond the bounds.

Nowadays Enda needs David needs Angela needs François, and they all need Barak, to withstand the tempest about to break as individual and state debt in EU member countries rises toward unsustainable levels.

When Cameron says, "We are all in this together" he doesn't have the mass of the British people in mind, but the common interests of his fellow leaders across Europe and across the world.

First published at the Belfast Telegraph.

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