President Obama took care this afternoon when asked about an EU referendum to give as nuanced an answer as possible. He emphasised repeatedly that this was a matter for the British people. He also affirmed Cameron’s ‘basic point that you probably want to see if you can fix what’s broken in a very important relationship’. Tory eurosceptics might be a little less impressed by this endorsement of Cameron’s strategy, but what they will be really unhappy with is the impression Obama gave that he believes an exit from Europe would be a sign that Britain is becoming more isolationist. The President said:
‘We have a special relationship with the United Kingdom and we believe that our capacity to partner with a United Kingdom that is active, robust, outward-looking and engaged with the world is hugely important to our own interests as well as the world. And I think that the UK’s participation in the EU is an expression of its influence and its role in the world.’
The argument that those in favour of leaving the EU make is that it doesn’t matter so much as it used to because other non-EU countries are becoming more important for trade. But this is weakened if one of those countries thinks membership of the EU is an important part of Britain’s ability to talk to others.