The UK would be at the "back of the queue" for any trade deal with the US if the country broke away from the EU, according to Barack Obama. The outgoing US president issued the warning during a press conference alongside David Cameron in London on 22 April.
Obama told the world's media that there would be no bilateral US/UK trade agreement "any time soon", while stressing that the US was focused on a major deal with in the EU in the shape of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
"Maybe some point down the line there might be a UK/US trade agreement, but it's not going to happen any time soon because our focus is on negotiating with a big bloc, the EU, to get a trade agreement," he said.
The intervention comes as Obama visits the UK to celebrate the Queen's 90th Birthday and hold talks with Cameron.
The president, speaking just over a month before the EU referendum on 23 June, also restated his claim that the UK's membership of the EU enhances Britain's influence on the world stage.
Obama has been attacked by pro-Brexit campaigners for publicly voicing his views on the historic ballot. Boris Johnson, the pro-'leave' Mayor of London, found himself embroiled in a race row by suggesting that the president harbours anti-British sentiments because of his Kenyan ancestry.
Writing about Obama's alleged decision to remove a bust of Britain's war-time prime minister Sir Winston Churchill from the Oval Office, Johnson said in The Sun newspaper: "Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president's ancestral dislike of the British Empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender."
Obama chose not to mention Johnson during the Foreign Office press conference, but explained he replaced the Churchill bust with one of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. "I love Winston Churchill," he insisted.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Dominic Raab accused Obama of hypocrisy. "The president made clear that uncontrolled immigration into the EU is a threat to national security. I agree - that is why it is safer to take back control so that we can stop terror suspects from Europe coming into the UK," the Vote Leave spokesman declared.
"He argued that he thinks it is in America's interests for the UK to stay in the EU but what is good for US politicians is not necessarily good for the British people. We want more international cooperation after we Vote Leave, but the EU is not fit for purpose, and cannot cope with the multiple crises we face like terrorism, Syria and mass migration.
"The US would not dream of opening its border with Mexico, so it is hypocritical for President Obama to insist that we do the same with Europe."
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