In the end, it seemed to come down to trade advantages – to what might once, back in the day, have been called the global interests of US corporate capitalism. Mr Obama even made specific reference in his article in Friday’s Daily Telegraph to the importance of current negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would reduce barriers to US business interests in the European Union. Unnamed US trade officials were being ominously quoted as saying that, in the event of Brexit, the UK would come very low on America’s list of priorities for new trade agreements.
Then Mr Obama himself abandoned such subtlety in his joint press conference with the Prime Minister. Should the UK go its own way, he said, there would be no trade agreement with the US any time soon. Maybe some time down the line, as he put it, we could work something out. But the UK would be “in the back of the queue” because the US would be dealing with the big boys. So this isn’t a warning: it’s a threat. Stay in the EU and make way for American competitors, or else.
The iron fist of a message inside that velvet glove of carefully recited claptrap about the special relationship is that Obama’s America wants us to stay in the conveniently monolithic, homogeneous trading bloc with which it can most easily do business. In other words, the tentative US economic recovery needs us to sacrifice our country’s judicial independence and the primacy of our parliamentary system, just as the US once sacrificed so many of its young military officers for our survival. That’s the deal.