President Obama has said he “wants a strong UK in a strong EU.” In his joint news conference with David Cameron of the EU state of Great Britain on May 13, 2013, the president elaborated on his earlier statement in a way that reveals his view of the EU as an entity. In short, he shares Cameron’s view that the EU is essentially a number of economic relationships rather than a political union of states.
In the news conference, Obama said, “With respect to the relationship between the UK and the EU, we have a special relationship with the United Kingdom, and we believe that our capacity to partner with a United kingdom that is active, robust, outward looking and engaged with the world is hugely important to our own interests as well as the world, and I think the UK’s participation in the EU is an expression of its influence and its role in the world as well as obviously a very important economic partnership.” Interestingly, the EU is portrayed here as an economic partnership, tantamount to being a number of trade treaties between sovereign countries acting in their respective national interests.
In terms of Britain’s place in the EU, Obama referred to it as a relationship, implying that the UK and EU are partners. Specifically, he said, “You probably want to fix what is broken in “a very important relationship.” Finally, stressing the EU as an alliance of sorts, the president pointed to the “tough negotiations” in the EU, as “you have a lot of countries involved.” That is, the EU is essentially a number of countries negotiating to reach deals on multilateral treaties.
Barak Obama’s construal of the E.U. ignores the vital point that the states have ceded significant governmental sovereignty to the Union. It is therefore not simply a nexus of relationships between countries. Unlike NAFTA, the E.U. has a supreme court, the European Court of Justice, a parliament, and an executive branch. Considering these institutions and the dual sovereignty qualifying the E.U. as a modern federal system, Obama’s decision to mimic Cameron’s view of the EU can indeed be subjected to criticism. Obama's antiquated view of the E.U. and one of its states is ironic, given that the U.S. itself is an empire-scale federal system.
“Joint News Conference with PM David Cameron,” CSPAN, May 13, 2013. Accessed on May 13, 2013.