President Barack Obama doesn’t regret speaking out in favor of the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union, according to the White House, even though critics of the EU suggested that his comments actually inspired Brexit voters to defy his advice.
“A lot of people in Britain said, ‘How dare the American president come here and tell us what to do?’” Brexit leader Nigel Farage said on Sirius XM’s “Breitbart News Daily,” referring to the president’s trip in April. “It backfired,” he continued. “We got an Obama-Brexit bounce, because people do not want foreign leaders telling them how to think and vote.”
But White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Tuesday that the Obama merely wanted to “set the record straight” by speaking on behalf of the American people.
“It also was an important statement for the president to make, because many proponents of Brexit were ascribing to the United States some views of the matter that frankly didn’t reflect the views of the leader of the United States,” he said.
Earnest argued that Obama’s comments actually helped the “remain” argument, citing increased support for the movement to stay in the European Union.
“I think what is clear is that in the days after those comments from the president in London, there was a what I would describe as positive movement in the polls,” Earnest said.
It remains unclear what polling numbers Earnest was referring to, as four different polls reported in the U.K. media suggested the opposite. The White House did not respond to a request for clarification from Breitbart News.
A YouGov poll conducted after Obama’s visit showed that support for the “Leave” campaign actually increased instead of diminishing.
Forty-two per cent said that they would vote for “Leave” — an increase of three points two weeks prior to the president’s visit. Only 41 percent backed “remain,” an increase of only one point. Fifty-three percent of those polled said it was “inappropriate” for Obama to express his opinion on the matter while only 35 percent said it was appropriate.
Pollsters ICM also reported improved numbers for “Leave” after Obama’s visit. “Interestingly, we do see a hardening of resolve among Leave supporters when it comes to turnout, with 80 per cent saying they are absolutely certain to vote, compared with 75 per cent who said the same in our first April poll, perhaps reflecting a sense of displeasure about Mr Obama’s comments,” Jennifer Bottomley, a spokesperson for ICM polling told the Express.
When asked to speculate further on the topic, Earnest replied that it would be “something that I will leave to the analysts to decide.”
He admitted, however, that the British vote to leave the European Union was not what Obama preferred.
“Things did not end up where we would have liked,” Earnest said. “But again, the president all along, from before the trip to during the trip to after the trip, made clear that this was a decision for the British people to make based on their own analysis of their country’s interests. And that’s what they did.”