Obama win keeps US-British relations familiar, comfortable

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who says he has a rapport with the president despite their differing political affiliations, congratulated Obama on his successful reelection bid today.

Ali Jarekji/Reuters
British Prime Minister David Cameron (l.) visits a refugee camp near Jordan's border with Syria today. Mr. Cameron congratulated US President Barack Obama on his reelection yesterday and said he looks forward to working with him in the future. Syria is likely to be a top priority for both men.

Although in theory they are from opposing sides of a broader right-left political divide, No. 10 Downing Street never seems to tire of insisting that Britain’s young Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, has “clicked” on a personal level with Barack Obama.

It’s a narrative that’s not without its skeptics, but in Mr. Cameron’s first reaction Wednesday to Obama’s reelection, the prime minister’s praise for “Barack” as “a very successful US president" seemed to come easily to him.

"I have really enjoyed working with him over the last few years and I look forward to working with him again over the next four years,” Cameron told the BBC during a trip to the Middle East.

Robin Niblett, director of the foreign affairs think tank Chatham House, says he believes that there would have been been genuine “relief” at Downing Street following Tuesday night’s result.

“My impression is that the president and the prime minister do genuinely get along. They are both pragmatists, both figures who are not particularly emotional about their policies. It's a different relationship to others in the past and therefore this is safe result at a time when the UK has a lot of challenges,” he says. “Having to [fit] in relations with a new US administration at this moment is not what Cameron would need.”

Commenting on the reelection, Cameron mentioned a number of priorities for future collaboration with the US: the need to “kick start the world economy,” secure an EU-US trade deal, and deal with the Syrian crisis.

On Syria, Mr. Niblett says it was interesting to note that Cameron had recently floated the notion of a negotiated exit for Syria’s ruler, Bashar al-Assad, but the US had been standoffish about the idea. He expected this to remain the case in the wake of Obama's reelection.

But in broader foreign policy terms, both in relation to Syria and Iran, he suggests that the UK prefers to have a US that was “less gung-ho,” allowing the UK and other European states space to take initiatives.

“It may suit the UK better to have a US that is cautious and thoughtful to connect with,” he says.

Niblett adds that closer collaboration between Washington and London could come in the economic sphere when it came to talks between the US and the European Union.

“From a UK standpoint, agreeing to a new EU-US trade deal that would reduced tariffs is an absolute priority, as it could have a really positive impact on growth,” he says.

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