A senior cabinet minister has accused Barack Obama of not understanding Britain's relationship with the EU, and said the US president would not support the Remain campaign if he did.
Leader of the house Chris Grayling, who is campaigning for the UK to leave the EU, was speaking on BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, in advance of Obama's visit to the UK next week.
Although it is unusual for foreign leaders to intervene in foreign elections and referenda, Obama is expected to repeat previous remarks that the US backs “a strong UK in the European Union,” according to Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser.
But Grayling suggested Obama only holds this position because he doesn't understand Britain's relationship with the EU.
“In my view, he perhaps doesn’t understand the nature of the transfer of power that has taken place, but I can assure you, if Americans truly knew how much of our national sovereignty now resides in Brussels," Grayling said, "they would never argue that we should stay."
Asked whether Obama was ignorant in his view, Grayling said: "I can only think he doesn’t realise."
Brexit campaigners have repeatedly said that Britain has been forced to cede sovereignty – the right to make some of its own laws – to Brussels as a result of being an EU member, and Grayling said the US would never agree to similar conditions.
"I don’t for a moment think that President Obama would tolerate a situation where the United States gave away as much of its sovereignty as we have to Brussels," he said. "The Democrats, if they advocated that, would be hammered at an election."
Obama has come under fire repeatedly from campaigners who want Britain to leave the EU. On Saturday, Boris Johnson accused the US president of "hypocrisy" and said Americans "wouldn't dream of sharing [their] sovereignty".
Meanwhile UKIP leader Nigel Farage called Obama "the most anti-British American president there has ever been" in advance of his visit.
Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Siraj Datoo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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