EU Referendum

Iain Duncan Smith: Obama's Brexit view 'driven by legacy'

Iain Duncan Smith
Image caption Iain Duncan Smith quit the cabinet last month

President Obama was more concerned about his legacy than UK interests when he dismissed the arguments for leaving the EU, an ex-cabinet minister has said

Iain Duncan Smith said it would be the UK, not the US, that would be "left to pick up the pieces" for EU failures.

A "cosy conversation" between Downing Street and the White House took place before the visit, he said, to talk down UK chances of a post-Brexit trade deal.

The Remain campaign says Mr Obama showed the dangers of leaving the EU.

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President Obama's forceful intervention, in which he questioned the ability of the UK to negotiate a speedy trade agreement with the world largest economy after voting to leave the EU, has angered Leave campaigners.

Mr Duncan Smith, who quit the cabinet last month in protest at welfare cuts, said there "had always been a code" among politicians not to interfere in the democratic affairs of other countries.

"I have huge regard for the British public's ability to spot a kind of cosy consensus between a government that wants us to vote to remain in and a US President that he wants to get a trade deal with the EU as a legacy," he told BBC Radio 4's Today.

"The US President is actually only seeking what he wants for his own country. I don't blame him for that but what I have to say is that the British people must recognise that when it comes to the EU, controlling our borders, and the risks that remaining in the EU pose to us, it is the British people who will pick up the pieces not the US."

'Lack of regard'

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Mr Obama, who leaves office in January, told reporters during a Downing Street news conference that the UK would go to the "back of the queue" in terms of negotiating trade deal with the US if it left the EU - a point he re-emphasised in a BBC interview on Sunday.

He said his country's focus was on negotiating trade agreements with regional blocs, including the EU - talks on which have been going on for years.

But Mr Duncan Smith said he had "never heard" an American use the phrase "back of the queue" before and suggested the script may have been agreed in advance.

"So we had a little cosy conversation between the prime minister and Barack - 'Barack will please just go out and re-emphasise the point that there is a queue and you will be at the back of it'."

'Bullied'

Mr Duncan Smith also defended Boris Johnson, who was criticised by Remain campaigners for suggesting that Mr Obama's attitude to the UK was influenced by his "part-Kenyan ancestral dislike of the British empire".

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He said claims by some opponents - including Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell - that the remarks were racist were "absurd".

All the London Mayor was doing, he suggested, was pointing out why Mr Obama "may have a particular lack of regard for the UK".

"I know Boris very well and, in no way, can you describe him as that. He has fought against any kind of racism time and time again, as I have.

"He was trying to illustrate, and you may say it was something clumsy, the reality that this President came over to the UK and in essence, ended up actually appearing to lecture the British citizens about what they should do in the forthcoming referendum."

Speaking on Monday, Mr Johnson said there needed to be more focus on the risks of staying in the EU and it was "absolutely ridiculous" for the UK to be told to wait its turn in terms of doing trade deals.

"The reason why we've had no trade deals for the last 43 years is because we've been part of the EU," he said. "For us to be bullied in this way - I don't want to exaggerate - for people to say we aren't going to be able to cope on our own is absolute nonsense."

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