President Barack Obama waded into two of the biggest political debates in Britain, urging the U.K. to remain united and in the European Union.
Asked about the Sept. 18 Scottish independence referendum and what it would mean to Americans, Obama told reporters at the Group of Seven summit in Brussels today that, while the decision is up to the Scottish people, Britain has been a success over the past 307 years as a single country.
“The United Kingdom has been an extraordinary partner to us and, from the outside at least, it looks like things have worked pretty well,” Obama said at a joint press conference with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. “We obviously have a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies that we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner.”
The intervention may help the No campaign, which is supported by Cameron and his Conservative Party, along with their Liberal Democrat coalition partners and the opposition Labour Party. The Yes campaign, run by the Scottish National Party, has gained ground in opinion polls in recent months, though they still point to a victory for the campaign to keep the union.
SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond turned another of the president’s slogans back on him. “My message to President Obama is: Yes We Can,” he told reporters.
Obama’s comments on Britain’s place in the EU may be less welcome to Cameron, who has promised a referendum on leaving the bloc if he wins the 2015 general election.
“It’s always encouraging for us to know that Great Britain has a seat at the table in the larger European project,” the president said. “It’s hard for me to imagine that project going well in the absence of Great Britain. It’s also hard for me to imagine that it would be advantageous for Great Britain to be excluded from political decisions that have an enormous impact on its economic and political life. I’m sure the people of Great Britain will make the right decision.”
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org Eddie Buckle, Andrew Atkinson