President Obama has shown his “woeful ignorance” of the hampering effect that being within the European Union has on Britain’s security, a government defence minister has said. The minister suggested he ask the CIA if he was unsure why creating an EU-wide intelligence agency wouldn’t help.
Mr Obama has spent the last few days visiting Britain, taking the opportunity to tell the British people why he thinks they should vote to remain within the European Union at the upcoming referendum on the matter.
He has made it clear that he believes it to be in America’s interest for Britain to remain within a large European bloc rather than striking out alone.
In his attempt to persuade the British people likewise, he has suggested that Europe owes the last seven decades of peace to the European project, and he reiterated the British government’s argument that Britain is more secure within the European Union.
His arguments on security in particular have been closely followed by Britain’s Armed Forces minister Penny Mordaunt, who has concluded that she cannot agree with what the President has had to say.
While she acknowledged the role that America and Britain have played as allies in the fight to promote freedom and democracy, she said “Where we part company, however, is in our views of the value of EU membership to this mission.”
Referring to a statement Mr Obama made in the Telegraph on Friday in which he said: “The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence – it magnifies it,” she responded: “Unfortunately this opinion betrays a woeful ignorance of the practical reality of the EU’s impact on our security, and the interests of the U.K. and the US.”
“Obama warned on Friday that divisions in Europe will weaken Nato, but often those divisions are caused by the EU itself. Obama confuses collective action and defence through Nato with the integration at all costs and damn the consequences ideology that too often motivates the EU.”
Mr Obama also used his statement to argue: “We must be resolute and adaptive in our efforts to prevent terrorist attacks against our people, and to continue the progress we are making to roll back the threat posed by Islamic State (Isil) until it is destroyed.”
Again Ms Mordaunt agreed, but countered that membership of the European Union is inimical to that aim.
“The President must be unaware of the alarming weaknesses that allow Daesh [Islamic State] terrorists to move unimpeded across Europe are the result of the EU’s bull-headed desire to take down all frontiers on the continent,” she said.
“Even in this country, although we are outside the Schengen borderless zone, European free movement rules mean we cannot keep out those we suspect wish us harm if it is based on incomplete evidence.”
And Ms Mordaunt went on to dismiss Mr Obama’s claims that intelligence sharing is enhanced by the European Union, saying: ”Obama cannot appreciate how the ECJ has repeatedly undermined the arrangements which enable the UK and US to share intelligence. I am sure the CIA would be happy to explain to him why that the creation of a EU intelligence agency will not result in intelligence being shared EU-wide.”
Far from being the answer to Europe’s security problems, Ms Mordaunt argued, it has often been the cause of them.
“Did [Obama] miss what happened to Greece? And the other nations clobbered by the appalling consequences of forced harmonisation of the eurozone?” she asked. “Is he oblivious to the suffering, the resulting tensions, the distrust, the rise of extremism?
“It has been said of the EU that expecting it to act as a functioning geopolitical entity is like putting wheels on your grandmother and saying she is a car. I worry that in years to come we will see a major car crash because of the misplaced ambitions of Brussels.”