Liam Fox wants Obama to keep out of EU referendum debate

Barack Obama Speaks

Former cabinet minister Liam Fox said that the US would never allow a foreign court to overrule Congress, ahead of this weekend’s visit to the UK by Barack Obama – who is expected to intervene in the debate about Britain’s membership of the EU.

The US president will have lunch with the Queen at Windsor Castle to celebrate her 90th birthday and then hold bilateral talks with David Cameron on Friday, although Downing Street that any decision by Obama to speak about the risks of Brexit would be a matter for him.

Fox had previously organised a letter from 100 MPs to the US ambassador Matthew Barzun urging the president not to intervene in the British referendum debate.

He told the Guardian that the US would accept neither having “enforced open borders decided by a foreign power” nor hand budgetary control to unelected bureaucrats.

“The president, is of course, welcome to his view when the US has an open border with Mexico, a supreme court in Toronto and the US budget set by a pan-American committee,” he said.

“Then his views might hold greater weight when he urges the European equivalent on the British people.”

Remain supporters argue that the US has every right to take part in a debate that will impact on its relationship with the UK. Supporters of the EU say that the US likes to have its close ally Britain inside the tent.

Ahead of the trip, the prime minister’s official spokeswoman stressed the UK and US work closely together on protecting security and the economy. “It is an opportunity for the prime minister to engage with the leader of a country with whom we have a special and a central relationship, is a partner in the G7 and G20 and where we are working together to advance our interests in terms of security and the economy,” she said.

However, Downing Street dismissed the idea that Cameron had been on bended-knee begging Obama to warn against Brexit during his visit. Asked whether Cameron was hoping Obama would make a strong intervention, his spokeswoman said: “That will be for the president to decide.”

The White House has previously made his view known that the president supports a “a strong UK in the European Union”.

But the president’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said on Friday: “He will make very clear that this is a matter the British people should decide when they head to the polls in June.

“We believe that all of us benefit when the EU can speak with a strong and a single voice and can work with us to advance our shared interests whether on security or prosperity. We believe that the UK has benefited from the single market that is good for the British economy and that, in turn, is good for the United States economy.”

Obama will have to strike a delicate balance given the potential for a backlash among UK voters if he weighs in strongly against Brexit with two months remaining before the polls on 23 June.

Last week, Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, branded Obama the “most anti-British American president there has ever been”, adding that he hoped he would be “replaced by somebody rather more sensible when it comes to trading relationships with this country”.

The US president is also expected to host a “town hall” event with young people at the Royal Horticultural Halls on Saturday, before staying the night and departing for Germany on Sunday.

But there was not yet a timetabled meeting with Jeremy Corbyn. Sources said Labour leader hoped to meet Obama, but admitted there were still questions over the logistics.

On Friday, Obama will be joined by his first lady, Michelle, for the lunch hosted by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. In the evening they will have a private dinner with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry at Kensington Palace.

A Kensington Palace spokesman said: “Their Royal Highnesses are very much looking forward to welcoming President and Mrs Obama to Kensington Palace.”

The US first couple have a warm relationship with the British royals. They met the newlywed Cambridges in the 1844 Room of Buckingham Palace during a 2011 US state visit to the UK.

The president welcomed William to the Oval Office in Washington in 2014, and last year Michelle Obama presented gifts to the Cambridges’ two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, during a whirlwind trip to the UK.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Anushka Asthana, Rowena Mason and Caroline Davies, for The Guardian on Tuesday 19th April 2016 19.53 Europe/London

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