Maybe it’s a special relationship after all. President Obama has given David Cameron and the Better Together campaign a rhetorical boost this afternoon. At a press conference held at the G7 in Brussels, the president said:
‘With respect to the future of the United Kingdom, obviously ultimately this is up to the people of Great Britain.
‘In the case of Scotland, there is a referendum process in place and it’s up to the people of Scotland.
‘But I would to say the United Kingdom has been an extraordinary partner to us. From the outside at least, it looks like things have worked pretty well.
‘We obviously have a deep interest in making sure one of the closest allies we will ever remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner.’
The statement will infuriate Scottish nationalists; but, nonetheless, its tactical significance is enormous. It allows the Better Together campaign to make a political argument couched in emotional terms. The day before the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the US President declared that the United Kingdom is greater – in every sense of the term – than the sum of its parts. The Unionists must grab this opportunity because it won’t be repeated before September.
Obama also endorsed David Cameron’s position on the European Union, and urged British voters to support the prime minister:
‘In light of the events that we are going to be commemorating tomorrow, it’s important to recall that it was the steadfastness of Great Britain that in part allows us to be here in Brussels in the seat of a unified and extraordinarily prosperous Europe.
‘It’s hard for me to image that project going well in the absence of Great Britain, and it’s hard for me to imagine 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 Britain will make the right decision.’
Doubtless, this arch contribution will irritate those British people who resent being lectured by Americans, especially American politicians. Convinced Euroscpetics are, of course, beyond Mr Cameron’s reach; but others may be swayed by Obama’s emotion and reasoning. After all, the President of the United States is still a big deal, even in this age of anti-politics and American decline. And for that reason the President’s view that ‘It’s hard for me to image that project going well in the absence of Great Britain’ should prick the ears of other European governments.