Barack Obama has urged Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom, and also called for the UK to remain a part of the European Union, in an intervention that is likely to draw mixed responses within Britain.
The president was speaking at a joint media conference with Prime Minister David Cameron following the G7 summit when he was asked what Scottish independence and Britain’s EU membership meant to him and the American people.
Speaking about Scotland, the president said that the UK is better off remaining united. The U.S. President said that Britain works “pretty well” as a “united” nation, and would risk losing economic clout and political influence if Scotland left.
The BBC reports him as saying: “There is a referendum process in place and it is up to the people of Scotland.
“The United Kingdom has been an extraordinary partner to us. From the outside at least, it looks like things have worked pretty well.
“And we obviously have a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner.
“But ultimately these are decisions that are to be made by the folks there.”
The American president then went on to say that the UK should stay in the European Union: “With respect to the EU we share a strategic vision with Great Britain on a whole range of international issues so it’s always encouraging for us to know that Great Britain has a seat at the table in the larger European project.”
These declarations will be seen as a major intervention from the U.S. president.
The American government had previously declared it would stay neutral in the Scottish independence debate, with the then American ambassador to Britain, Louis Susman, saying last year that the U.S. administration would not “take sides”.
This is not the first time Obama has told Britain to stay in the EU, however. In January last year he was reported to have told David Cameron that he “values a strong UK in a strong European Union”.
The White House then issued a statement confirming the president’s position: “The president underscored our close alliance with the United Kingdom and said that the United States values a strong UK in a strong European Union, which makes critical contributions to peace, prosperity, and security in Europe and around the world.”
Former UN deputy secretary-general Lord Malloch-Brown expressed his “surprise” at Mr Obama’s intervention yesterday. He told the BBC that the U.S. should stay out the of Scottish independence debate, saying that “foreign, unsolicited advice is only going to anger Scots”.
“I’m surprised that he has stepped into this. I don’t think it will be very helpful for anybody,” he said.
Obama has previously offended the people of the Falkland Islands after saying he was “neutral” on the issue of their sovereignty, despite the vast majority of them rejecting Argentina’s claim and wishing to remain British.
Even after a referendum last year resulted in 99.8 percent of islanders voting to remain British, the Obama administration still declared its “neutrality” on the issue.
Britain and Argentina fought a bloody war over the Islands in 1982, in which 255 UK service men died to keep the islands British.