The Obama administration has folded on its threat to send Britain to the “back of the queue” in the case of a vote to leave the European Union (EU), after Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed the United States’ “special relationship” with Britain.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry affirmed unequivocally that “the United States will maintain its special relationship and strong relationship with Great Britain,” during the nation’s negotiations for exiting the EU.
The statement was made by Mr. Kerry following a meeting in Brussels with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini. This is a significant backpedal after President Barack Obama’s visit in April where he stated that Britain would be at the “back of the queue” when it came to future trade agreements should the populous vote to leave the EU — a clear statement at the time that the special relationship had been forsaken.
Mr. Kerry reiterated the “special relationship”, saying: “Great Britain is a P5 member [permanent member of the United Nations Security Council]. Great Britain has a long and a special relationship with the United States.”
However, Mr. Kerry did acknowledge that “the vote did not come out the way President Obama, I and or others hoped it would. But that’s democracy and we respect the rights of voters and the process.
“It is now incumbent on leaders to implement the will of the people, and do so in a way that is responsible, sensitive, thoughtful, and, I hope, strategic. I think it is important to note that ever since World War Two we have been working all together on the development of a structure to make our countries stronger and to be able to deliver a good life and benefits to our people.”
Furthermore, he stated that the shared interests and values of the U.S., Britain and the other EU nations “that brought us together to work for a common good are the same after that vote as they were before”.
The Secretary of State then affirmed that the U.S. had a vested interest in a strong EU post-Brexit:
“It is critical as we go forward in these next days to understand the importance of a strong EU. The United States cares about a strong EU.”
But careful to communicate that the U.S. did not value a strong EU over or to the detriment of Britain, Mr. Kerry evoked the special relationship for the third time:
“It is my intention, in furtherance of President Obama’s commitment to both the EU and the special relationship, to do everything in our power to make this transitional process as sensible and as smooth as it can be.”
Mr. Kerry also gave a clear, blunt warning to the EU against taking revenge against Britain during the negotiations, likely following reports that EU members were pushing for Britain to be taught a lesson with a punishing exit, for the purposes of setting an example to other populist Eurosceptic movements in the EU:
“I think it is absolutely essential that we stay focused on how, in this transitional period, nobody loses their head, nobody goes off half-cocked, people don’t start ginning up scatter-brained or revengeful premises, but we look for ways to maintain the structures that will serve the interests and the values that brought us together in the first place.”
The Secretary of State then travelled to the UK to meet with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to discuss Britain’s exit from the EU.