Barack Obama’s reportedly impending visit to the United Kingdom will make the country’s exit from the European Union more likely, Ted Cruz told reporters on Sunday.
President Obama, if anything his campaigning against [Britain leaving] will make it more likely that England will pull out of the EU, said the Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate, who was campaigning in North Carolina ahead of Tuesday’s primary.
The Independent on Sunday reported this weekend that Obama will travel to the UK in April, as part of a trip already including Germany, to lend his support to the campaign against the so-called “Brexit”. The British prime minister, David Cameron, wants Britain to stay in the European Union. The referendum on the question will take place on 23 June.
The question of an intervention by Obama has been raised before: in February, Tennessee senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, suggested Obama would “reach out” to British voters.
Declining to say if he thought the UK leaving the EU would harm US national security, Cruz pegged his argument on a critique of US foreign policy that he gives when out on the stump.
He argued that Obama had hurt “our alliances” and “harmed our friendships” around the world, and that “our enemies have learned this president is not a credible threat for anything”.
The Texas senator also insisted that if elected he would return a bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office. George W Bush kept the bust, a loan from the UK, during his time in the White House. Obama did not retain it.
Many on the American right have long viewed British EU membership with skepticism. Anti-EU politicians like Nigel Farage and Daniel Hannan have spoken at conservative conferences in the US. On a presidential debate stage in January, Mike Huckabee said: “The European Union is failure.”
However, in the foreign policy community there is a strong consensus that UK membership benefits the US national interest.
Cruz made the comments before five crucial presidential primaries on Tuesday. He is the closest competitor to Donald Trump in the Republican field and was campaigning in a state where he claimed his organisation’s polls showed a far closer race than public polling.
Cruz has won 370 of the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination, leaving him 90 behind Trump.