WASHINGTON — The White House and State Department insisted today that the special relationship between the U.S. and UK will remain special despite Britain’s decision to divorce the European Union.
“One thing that will not change is the special relationship that exists between our two nations. That will endure,” President Obama said at a discussion with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and entrepreneurs at Stanford. “The EU will remain one of our indispensible partners.”
Obama’s mention of the Brexit referendum drew groans from the audience.
The president said he believes the vote “speaks to the ongoing changes and challenges raised by globalization.”
In addition to traveling and evening fundraising, Obama spent the day on the phone with counterparts in Europe.
The White House said Obama called Prime Minister David Cameron and “expressed his regret at the prime minister’s decision to step aside following a leadership transition and noted that the prime minister has been a trusted partner and friend, whose counsel and shared dedication to democratic values, the special relationship, and the Transatlantic community are highly valued.”
“The president also observed that the EU, 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, will remain an indispensable partner of the United States,” the White House said. “The president and prime minister concurred that they are confident that the United Kingdom and the EU will negotiate a productive way forward to ensure financial stability, continued trade and investment, and the mutual prosperity they bring.”
And speaking of the EU, Obama also hopped on the phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Both said they regretted the decision but respected the will of the British people,” the White House said. “The two leaders agreed that the economic and financial teams of the G-7 partners will coordinate closely to ensure all are focused on financial stability and economic growth. The president and the chancellor affirmed that Germany and the EU will remain indispensable partners of the United States.”
Obama and Merkel are looking forward “to underscore the strength and enduring bond of transatlantic ties” at the July NATO summit in Warsaw.
Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement stressing that “although the UK will be leaving the European Union, the British are in no way departing from the principles and values that undergird the Transatlantic Partnership or from the important role the UK plays in promoting peace and stability in the world.”
“The special relationship that has long existed between the United States and the UK endures. Our two countries remain strong and vigilant NATO Allies, permanent members of the UN Security Council, commercial partners, and close friends,” Kerry said.
“I also want to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the European Union and the common agenda we share with Europe on such issues as Ukraine, nuclear nonproliferation, climate change, trade, and human rights.”
State Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters that “the special relationship remains a special relationship, and we’re confident that no matter what the implications are of this vote, that the relationship between the United States and the U.K. will remain as strong as ever.”
“And also I would add that our partnership with the EU across a range of security, political, and economic issues will remain very strong indeed. And as I said – back to your question on the comment about back of the queue we’re going to work closely with the UK and the EU as they work their way through what this decision means, and then we’ll consider what the options are as a result of that process,” Kirby said.
“But we fundamentally do not see any change to the U.S.-UK special relationship as a result of this.”