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Boris vs Barack in the EU referendum campaign

14 March 2016

9:06 AM

14 March 2016

9:06 AM

As the EU referendum campaign wears on, the rules of engagement from both sides are becoming clearer – or at least the rules that both sides would like to use for engagement. The Inners are in favour, unsurprisingly, of throwing everything they can at the campaign to keep Britain in the EU. The Outers are annoyed that the Inners are doing this, though their surprise often seems exaggerated: they cannot really be shocked that a government would try to do everything to stop a change that it thinks is a bad thing for the country.

Today Boris Johnson sets out one of the rules of engagement that Brexit campaigners would like to see, which is no foreign governments being dragged into this. Eurosceptics were furious recently when François Hollande and French economy minister Emmanuel Macron made interventions about the border between France and Britain. And Boris uses his Telegraph column to criticise the forthcoming visit of Barack Obama, who the Mayor says will tell the British people to ‘be good to themselves, to do the right thing’. He writes:

‘Some time in the next couple of months we are told that President Obama himself is going to arrive in this country, like some deus ex machina, to pronounce on the matter. Air Force One will touch down; a lectern with the presidential seal will be erected. The British people will be told to be good to themselves, to do the right thing. We will be informed by our most important ally that it is in our interests to stay in the EU, no matter how flawed we may feel that organisation to be. Never mind the loss of sovereignty; never mind the expense and the bureaucracy and the uncontrolled immigration.’

Boris largely uses his column to criticise the argument that he thinks Obama will make. But many of his colleagues are furious that Obama will be making the argument at all, feeling that it is an unfair campaign tactic from David Cameron. Their complaint forms part of the rumble of the referendum, which so far has been as much about who is running the meaner campaign as it has been about the arguments for or against Brexit.


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