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Obama’s British Blunder


"So much scandal is swirling around President Obama that it was hard to spot what must be the biggest strategic error of the week," the New York Sun opines, "his warning to Prime Minister Cameron that if Britain leaves the European Union it could lose clout in Washington. The story ran in few, if any, places other than the London Financial Times, which featured on page one a picture of Messrs. Cameron and Obama in the Oval Office:

The headline read, “Obama warns Cameron that Britain would lose influence in the US if it pulls out of EU.”

Who in the world came up with that brainstorm? The idea seems to be, as the FT quotes Mr. Obama as articulating it for Mr. Cameron, that Britain’s membership in the EU is “an expression of its influence and its role in the world.” The president advised Mr. Cameron, in public statements yesterday, to try to “fix what’s broken” in the European Union rather than pull out. In context that’s an intervention by Mr. Obama into Britain’s domestic political situation, where a fast-growing political party is challenging Mr. Cameron’s government over the issue of Europe.

The challenger is the United Kingdom Independence Party. It was founded in 1993 in the wake of the Maastricht Treaty, which led to the creation of the European Union and the Euro. For years a marginal group, with a libertarian streak, UKIP has been surging lately. It has helped box Mr. Cameron in to promising a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the European Union, and if recent polls are an indication, there’s a fair chance that Britons would decide to exit the socialist satrapy that has been set up in the years since Maastricht.

So when did it become American policy to set itself against the British voters? A British exit — known as “Brexit” in British shorthand — ought to be seen as an opportunity for America. These columns have been making this point for some years, urging the idea that an exit of Britain from the EU would present a chance to forge something substantive out of the “special relationship” that Britain and America are supposed to enjoy. It’s a situation that calls for creative thinking in the White House and the State Department.

As James C. Bennett and Iain Murray noted in the Wall Street Journal in 2o11, a savvier president would have offered England a membership in NAFTA, if it departed from the EU.