US president warns UK on trade deal amid Brexit debate

US president warns UK on trade deal amid Brexit debate

LONDON - Anadolu Agency
US president warns UK on trade deal amid Brexit debate

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U.S. President Barack Obama has warned a trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. “would not happen any time soon” should the latter leave the EU.

During a press conference with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron on April 22, Obama answered questions over the debates around what critics have qualified as an intervention in Britain’s EU referendum.

Both leaders emphasized “the special relationship” between the two countries, a term which was coined by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill 70 years ago.

Concerning the recent controversy surrounding the U.S. president’s comments on the EU referendum, Obama said he was “not here to fix any votes”.

“Speaking honestly, the outcome of that decision is a matter of deep interest to the U.S. as it affects our prospects as well," Obama said. “The United Kingdom is at its best when it is leading Europe."

More than 46 million people will be eligible to vote in the June 23 EU referendum, a manifesto commitment from the governing Conservative Party ahead of last year’s parliamentary election.

Regarding a trade deal between the U.K. and the U.S. in the future, Obama said: “It's not going to happen any time soon because our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union, to get a trade agreement done […] The U.K. is going to be in the back of the queue."

"As we make our choice, we should listen to our friend's opinions," Cameron said, adding that the two had also discussed the migrant crisis and the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during the meeting.

Obama also mentioned Russia’s military involvement in Syria.

“I have always been skeptical about Mr. Putin’s actions and motives inside of Syria. He is along with Iran a prominent backer of a murderous regime that I do not believe can regain legitimacy within the country,” he said.

Obama arrived in the U.K. on April 21 evening for his last scheduled visit as president.

In an interview to The Daily Telegraph newspaper on April 22, Obama urged the U.K. to remain in the EU, saying the Union was created “from the ashes of war”. Obama said Britain’s membership “magnifies” the country's global influence.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, the most visible figure of the Leave EU campaign, has criticized Obama’s comments calling them “hypocritical”.

Earlier on April 22, Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama had lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at Windsor Castle. Later in the evening, the U.S. president is expected to have dinner with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.