Campaigners for a British exit from the European Union reacted angrily Friday to US President Barack Obama’s call for the UK to stay in the bloc.
In an article for the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Obama said that the EU “enhances Britain’s global leadership”.
Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, said Obama – who is due to meet Prime Minister David Cameron later on Friday – should “butt out”.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, a leader of the exit campaign, said Americans “would never contemplate anything like the EU for themselves”.
Writing in The Sun newspaper, Johnson said Obama’s stance “is a breathtaking example of the principle of do as I say, not as I do”.
Johnson also recounted a claim that a bust of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was removed from the Oval Office after Obama was elected and returned to the British Embassy.
Johnson wrote that “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”.
The White House has said that the story is untrue, and the bust is still in a prominent place in the presidential residence.
Johnson’s comments drew criticism from his political opponents. Former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell said that “many people will find Boris Johnson’s loaded attack on President Obama’s sincerity deeply offensive”, and Labour Party MP Diane Abbott said that “Boris dismissing president Obama as ‘half-Kenyan’ reflects the worst Tea Party rhetoric.”
Churchill’s grandson Nicholas Soames – like Johnson a Conservative MP – tweeted: “Appalling article by (at)BorisJohnson in Sun totally wrong on almost everything. Inconceivable WSC (Winston Churchill) wld not have welcomed Presidents views.”