WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama on Friday said the European Union and the United Kingdom will remain “indispensable partners” of 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 and that the U.S. would respect the vote. Obama had strongly urged that the U.K. remain in the EU, and the decision was 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 traveled to London in April to make his case to UK voters in person. In affairs both of security and economics, Britain is an essential partner and liaison to Europe for the U.S., Obama said then, suggesting that status would be diminished upon a withdrawal from the union. The president also argued that British businesses would take a hit, noting that the United States would continue to prioritize a free trade deal with the EU and would be in no hurry to start negotiating a free trade deal with Britain.
At the time, Obama’s message was viewed by some as unwelcome interference in domestic affairs.
On Friday, the president took a softer tone about the future of the U.K., offering reassurance to both the U.K. 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.