US presidential hopeful weighs in on forthcoming vote as No 10 welcomes latest backing ahead of 23 June referendum
Hillary Clinton has thrown her weight behind the campaign to keep Britain inside the European Union in a major new boost to David Camerons hopes of winning a Remain vote on 23 June.
After Barack Obama used his farewell trip to the UK as president to make the economic and security arguments for membership, Clinton, who is the favourite to win the Democratic nomination in July and become the first female US president, makes clear that if she enters the White House she will want the UK to be fully engaged, and leading the debate, within the EU.
In a statement to the Observer, her senior policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, said: Hillary Clinton believes that transatlantic cooperation is essential, and that cooperation is strongest when Europe is united. She has always valued a strong United Kingdom in a strong EU. And she values a strong British voice in the EU. Sources close to the former secretary of states campaign said she stood fully behind Obamas opposition to Brexit, which the president said on Friday would not only undermine the international institutions, including the EU, that had bound nations closer together since 1945, but would also mean the UK being at the back of the queue when negotiating new trade deals.
Obamas remarks drew angry responses from leading figures in the Leave campaign, including the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who questioned the presidents right to intervene. Leading backers of Brexit also tried to dismiss Obamas view as that of a lame duck president soon to be out of office.
The former Tory defence secretary Liam Fox, a Brexit enthusiast, said on Friday night that Obamas opinions would be irrelevant after the US elections in November. Whoever it is that will be at the helm of the United States wont be Barack Obama, Fox told BBC2s Newsnight. It will be the next president, and the next congress, who will be in charge of any trade arrangements. But the Remain camp and No 10 sources said that such arguments had exploded in the faces of the Brexit camp.
The Conservative MP Damian Green, a board member of the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign and the chairman of European Mainstream, said: This shows how misleading it is to say this is just the view of a president in his last days in office. It confirms that mainstream political opinion in the United States is in favour of Britain remaining in the EU, and that the transatlantic values that we share with the US are expressed most strongly in Europe by a fully engaged Britain.
A No 10 source said: Not only do you have the serving US president setting out why the UK is better off staying in the EU, but now those who aspire to be president too. Hillary Clinton worked with the UK as secretary of state for a number of years and saw first hand how the UKs influence was magnified by the role we played in the EU. When you face a big decision in life, most people listen to their friends, and we disregard such advice at our peril.
The Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has not offered a view on whether he thinks the UK should stay in or leave the EU, although he has said he believes there is a good chance the British people will vote for Brexit, partly because of their unhappiness with levels of immigration.