When he heard that Boris Johnson had been named the foreign secretary of the UK by new prime minister Theresa May, the United States State Department spokesperson Mark Toner could barely contain his laughter.
The new title will give Mr Johnson overall authority over British diplomatic missions, and he will be instrumental in Brexit negotiations with the EU once Article 50 is enacted, launching the leave process.
During the daily State Department briefing, Mr Toner’s facial expression appeared rather amused as a reporter asked about the US’s future relationship with the former mayor of London and major Brexit campaigner.
“We’re always going to be able to work with the British, no matter who is occupying the role of the Foreign Secretary because of our deep abiding special relationship with the United Kingdom,” he said. “We congratulate Foreign Secretary [Philip] Hammond on his new role [as Chancellor of Exchequer] and we look forward to engaging with Boris Johnson as the new foreign secretary.”
Mr Toner added: “This is something that, frankly, goes beyond – a relationship that goes beyond personalities. And it is an absolutely critical period in certainly England’s history, but also the US-UK relationship, so absolutely we’re committed to working productively going forward.”
For his part, Mr Johnson had said Barack Obama had a an “ancestral dislike of the British empire” due to his “part-Kenyan” heritage, when he accused the US president of removing a bust of Winston Churchill from the White House.
Both President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were critical of the campaign for the UK to leave the European Union, but conceded to the voters’ decision in favor of Brexit.
“The United Kingdom and the European Union will remain indispensable partners of the United States,” Mr Obama said in a statement, “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.”
Ms Clinton echoed the President’s commitment to the relationship with the UK and EU.
“Our first task has to be to make sure that the economic uncertainty created by these events does not hurt working families here in America,” the presumptive Democratic nominee said in a statement.
“We also have to make clear America's steadfast commitment to the special relationship with Britain and the transatlantic alliance with Europe.”
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