LONDON, April 22 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama, after arriving in Britain, invoked history and emotion in a newspaper essay Friday urging the country to remain in the European Union.
His op-ed piece in the Daily Telegraph advised voters in June's so-called Brexit referendum to choose stay in the economic bloc. Polls currently show the contest too close to call, and Obama's published opinions were directed not at policymakers but at voters. The essay is free of statistics but heavy on historical references to unity, open markets and the spread of law.
"I will say, with the candor of a friend, that the outcome of your decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States. The tens of thousands of Americans who rest in Europe's cemeteries are a silent testament to just how intertwined our prosperity and security truly are... The U.S. sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward-looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic. So the U.S. and the world need your outsized influence to continue – including within Europe," Obama wrote.
"As citizens of the United Kingdom take stock of their relationship with the EU, you should be proud that the EU has helped spread British values and practices -- democracy, the rule of law, open markets -- across the continent and to its periphery. The European Union doesn't moderate British influence -- it magnifies it. A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain's global leadership; it enhances Britain's global leadership."
British opponents of remaining in the EU, known as the Vote Leave faction, quickly objected to British Prime Minister David Cameron's capability for presenting a forum for world leaders supportive of remaining in the EU, Cameron's stance.
"The U.S. guards its democracy with more hysterical jealousy than any other country on earth ... For the United States to tell us in the U.K. that we must surrender control of so much of our democracy is a breathtaking example of the principle of do as I say, not as I do. It is incoherent. It is inconsistent, and yes, it is downright hypocritical," wrote London Mayor Boris Johnson in the Sun, in a newspaper essay of his own.
Obama is in London to confer with Cameron on issues including the threat posed by the Islamic State, the future of NATO and Russian aggression in Europe. In the essay, Obama acknowledged he also wants "to wish Her Majesty a happy birthday in person," a reference to the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.