Brexit Decision Deals Another Blow to Obama

President says "enduring" special relationship between U.S. and U.K. will continue

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the U.S economy and presidential race from the briefing room of the White House on Friday. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the U.S economy and presidential race from the briefing room of the White House on Friday. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Posted June 24, 2016 at 7:39am

The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union is the second major blow to President Barack Obama — and his legacy — in as many days.

The country’s historic referendum decision, which brought the resignation — effective in October — of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron was made official one day after the Supreme Court left Obama’s immigration executive order frozen in perpetuity.

On Thursday, Obama pinned much of the blame for the high court’s 4-4 split decision on Senate Republicans’ unwillingness to confirm his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, and on House Republicans for blocking a Senate-passed bipartisan immigration overhaul bill in 2013.


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But he cannot blame them for the British EU exit, known as “Brexit.”

During a visit to London in April, Obama did not mince words about his opposition to an EU exit. Speaking beside Cameron, the president delivered a forceful case that Britain as an EU member is stronger on the continent and across the globe.

“The United Kingdom is at its best when it is helping to lead a strong Europe. It leverages U.K. power to be part of the European Union,” Obama said, seeming to directly address British voters.


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And Obama did not try to shield his belief that his country stands to retain its position as the world’s most powerful nation if Britain votes to remain an EU member.

“If one of our best friends is in an organization that enhances their power and economy, then I want them to stay in it — or at least I want to be able to tell them, ‘I think this makes you bigger players,’” Obama said. “Ultimately it’s your decision. But precisely [because] we’re bound at the hip, I want you to know that.”


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Speaking Friday afternoon at Stanford University in California, Obama directly linked the Brexit outcome to the “challenges” spawned by a globalization.  

Though he did not say the U.K. exit was caused by a collective reluctance by voters there to move forward in a more interconnected global economic system, he did state a belief that “globalization stokes fears.”  

Earlier Friday, Obama spoke with Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who heads the EU’s most powerful remaining member. Cameron promised to oversee a smooth transition out of the union, Obama said.  

Senior U.S. and British economic and financial officials will continue to “be in close contact,” Obama said. American officials and their EU counterparts, he said, will also collaborate on Great Britain’s departure and what happens after.  

The kind of values, and creating “opportunity for all people in a globalized world will continue to unite us all,” Obama said.

On Twitter, Obama was already being blamed. 

Jack Fowler, publisher of the conservative National Review magazine, tweeted that Obama’s “lecturing” to the British people in April did not help the “remain” camp. 


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In a statement released Friday morning, Obama said of the British people: “We respect their decision,” and declared that “the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is enduring.”

He also underscored the U.K.’s membership in NATO, which is expected to remain unchanged. That “remains a vital cornerstone of U.S. foreign, security, and economic policy,” Obama said.  


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Obama also highlighted the U.S.-EU relationship, saying the union has “done so much to promote stability, stimulate economic growth, and foster the spread of democratic values and ideals across the continent and beyond.” But the European Union and the U.K. “will remain indispensable partners of the United States even as they begin negotiating their ongoing relationship to ensure continued stability, security, and prosperity for Europe, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the world,” he said.  

On Twitter, others piled on under the #Brexit hashtag.

Stephanie Akin contributed to this report.

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