Should Britain choose to break off from the European Union in a June 23 referendum, a new trade deal between it and the United States could take five to 10 years to negotiate, President Barack Obama said Sunday on British television.
"The U.K. would not be able negotiate something with the United States faster than the EU," Obama said. "We wouldn't abandon our efforts to negotiate a trade deal with our largest trading partner, the European market. But rather, it could be five years from now, 10 years from now, before we could actually get something done.”
Obama, whose final term as president will end in January, has spent the last three days traveling around Britain, advocating to its people that they should vote to remain part of the EU.
The president recently published a column in The Telegraph newspaper strongly urging the country to stick with the EU, arguing that Britain would be stronger for it.
“The United States sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic," he wrote. "So the U.S. and the world need your outsized influence to continue — including within Europe.”
The statements drew a sharp rebuke from those who back Britain’s exit. Right-wing Independence Party leader Nigel Farage had strong words for the U.S. leader, saying he should “butt out.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson described Obama’s statements as hypocritical and “perverse” and said U.S. leaders “would never contemplate anything like the EU for themselves.”
WATCH: President Obama's Town Hall in London