Obama’s UK trade ‘threats’ highlight limited post-EU options

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President Barack Obama's decision to wade into the debate over whether the U.K. should remain in the European Union touched a nerve with pro-"Brexit" London mayor Boris Johnson. However, the U.S. president's remarks on a post-EU trade deal between his country and the U.K. have raised concerns over potential "threats."

Obama made it clear that he hopes the U.K. remains in the European bloc, and more recently has explained that should the U.S. ally leave the EU, hitting on a new free trade agreement could take some time. With negotiations for several deals in the works right now – such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – the president said that the U.K. would have to wait its turn for its own agreement.

"It could be five years from now, 10 years from now before we were able to actually get something done," he explained in a BBC interview.

Independent UK's trade options would be limited
He added that the U.K. would have less influence both within Europe and globally should it follow through with the Brexit. He noted that the U.S. wouldn't table negotiations with the EU simply to start talking free trade with a newly independent U.K. The country will hold a referendum on EU membership on June 23.

While Obama's comments certainly angered pro-Brexit politicians such as Johnson and UKIP leader Nigel Farage, the U.K.'s trade options would be limited if it were to leave the EU, according to Reuters. A deal with the EU would be difficult to work out quickly. In addition, British finance minister George Osborne explained that a trade deal similar to the one recently inked between Canada and the EU would lead the U.K. economy to shrink more than 6 percent by 2030.

Trade 'threats' aren't changing any pro-Brexit minds
Despite Obama's "threats" about the U.K.'s place in line for a trade deal should it leave the EU, pro-Brexit politicians aren't budging from their positions. Farage noted that U.S. trade agreements with Canada and Australia took "two years," according to the Financial Times. He stated that to imply such an agreement with the U.K. would take 10 years is "political positioning."

"'No American president would consider giving up as much sovereignty as we have," the UKIP leader stated. "This referendum is about us regaining our independence as a nation and taking back control of our economy, our borders and the 350 million ($511 million) we hand to Brussels each week."

Where the U.K. ends up in the U.S. trade deal queue, what's for certain is that a British exit from the EU would have a substantial effect on global trade. Come June, the international trade landscape could look quite different if Farage, Johnson and their fellow pro-Brexit Britons are successful in convincing the U.K. that their country would be better off outside the EU.