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Why Obama’s Brexit intervention will matter whether we like it or not

15 April 2016

8:42 AM

15 April 2016

8:42 AM

It now looks likely that Barack Obama’s visit to London next week will see the President calling on Britain to stay in the EU. We’re told that Obama will be giving his views as a ‘friend’ and only if he’s asked about Brexit. Nothing sounds more patronising. And as Jacob Rees-Mogg has said, why should we listen to a President who hasn’t been very good?

But the truth is that, whether we like it or not, Obama’s intervention could be key. Whatever many think of the President and the collective failures and disappointments of his time in office, Obama is still loved amongst the group of younger voters in Britain who could swing the EU referendum for the remain campaign. Polls have suggested that just half of 18-34s are definitely planning on casting their vote on June 23rd. That may change with a rallying call from Obama.

Whatever some may say about Obama keeping his nose out of British politics, a direct appeal from the President will cut through to younger voters in a way that others in the EU debate can only dream of. Yes, it is patronising to be lectured to by a US president. It’s also true that Obama is unlikely to convince anyone already opting towards out to think again. But in rallying younger voters, the US president’s intervention could prove significant in persuading a group of disinterested voters to head to the ballot box when they might not have done. The heady days of 2008 and ‘Yes we can’ might seem like a long time ago. For many millenials, that doesn’t matter: Obama is still idolised in a way uncommon to any other politician. We might not like it, but Obama’s voice will matter in this Brexit debate.

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