WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday said the European Union and the United Kingdom will remained “indispensable partners” to the U.S., as he tried to reassure Britons that the storied special relationship between Washington and London can withstand an impending and possibly messy divorce from Europe.
In his first public reaction to the vote, Obama said the people of the U.K. had spoken. Obama had strongly urged that the UK remain in the EU, and the decision is a significant blow to his efforts to counter the isolationist viewpoints taking hold in many parts of the world.
Obama said “the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is enduring.”
“The United Kingdom and the European Union will remain indispensable partners of the United States even as they begin negotiating their ongoing relationship to ensure continued stability, security, and prosperity for Europe, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the world,” he said.
Obama had urged British voters to remain in the union and travelled to London in April to make his case in person. On both security and economic affairs, Britain remained was an essential partner and liaison to broader Europe for the U.S., Obama said then, suggesting that status would be diminished if it withdrew from the union. The president also argued British businesses would take a hit, noting that the United States would be in no hurry to renegotiate a free trade deal with Britain.
Obama’s message was viewed by some as unwelcome interference in domestic affairs, and appeared to have little impact.
On Friday, the president took a softer tone about the future of the UK, offering reassurance to both the UK and the EU.
“The United Kingdom’s membership in NATO remains a vital cornerstone of U.S. foreign, security, and economic policy,” Obama said. “So too is our relationship with the European Union, which has done so much to promote stability, stimulate economic growth, and foster the spread of democratic values and ideals across the continent and beyond.”
Obama’s comments came in a written statement issued by the White House while the president was traveling in California.