US Secretary of State John Kerry has said Britain’s membership of the European Union magnifies its role on the global stage, adding that the United States would “hate” for the UK to leave the bloc.
“A strong and united Europe that includes Great Britain is a stronger Europe and a stronger partner,” Kerry told reporters in London on Tuesday.
Kerry defended the right of the United States to intervene in Britain’s domestic debate about whether to stay in the 28-member bloc.
“This is a special relationship. We have fought together in so many wars. We have similar values. Similar systems. We have been partners in so many different efforts that clearly we have an opinion,” the top diplomat said.
Kerry is in London for an anti-corruption summit to be held on Thursday. The visit comes just a few weeks after President Barack Obama visited the capital to urge Britons to stay in the EU.
“It is up to the people here to vote. And we respect whatever that vote is going to be,” Kerry said.
“However we believe a strong united Europe, with a Britain whose voice and power is magnified by its presence within the EU, we think that’s important. We would hate to lose that added strength we think Great Britain gets by being a member,” he added.
Britons vote in a referendum on EU membership on June 23. With the country evenly divided over the issue, politicians from around the world have started expressing their views.
President Obama made the strongest case against the so-called Brexit when he visited London last month, warning that the UK would be at the “back of the queue” for US trade deals should it leave the EU.
Speaking at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron on April 22, Obama said the “special relationship” between the US and Britain makes the Brexit “a matter of deep interest to the United States.”
Obama’s comments angered anti-EU campaigners, who accused the US president of interfering in internal UK politics.
In the strongest remarks on the issue, the British prime minister warned Monday that leaving the EU will increase the risk of another world war, drawing accusations of fear-mongering from critics.
Cameron also insisted it would be harder to keep terrorists off the streets of London if Britain was no longer part of the EU.
He accused the Brexit campaigners of “toying” with the livelihoods of the British public without any serious plan for the future.
Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, the most high-profile figure campaigning for Britain’s exit, mocked Cameron’s comments, arguing that far from keeping the peace, the EU had stoked tensions in Ukraine.
Johnson, a lawmaker in Cameron’s Conservative Party, is expected to begin touring the country on a bus this week to campaign for Brexit.