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Awkward joint press conference: Obama says he’s not punishing Britain, but it’s really hard to tell

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President Obama had an awkward joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the G20 Summit on Sunday.

While he has made it a point to get cozy with regimes in Cuba and Iran he has alienated Israel and, most recently, Britain when he said our oldest ally would go “to the back of the que” for trade deals if it voted to leave the European Union, which it did.

And the president didn’t walk back those remarks when given the chance at the summit in Hangzhou, China.

He said the TIPP trade negotiations being worked on with the EU would remain his top priority.

“It would not make sense for us to put those efforts aside particularly at a time when my working assumption was that if in fact the people of the UK were to leave the EU their first priority would be to renegotiated their terms of trade with the economic unit they sell half of their goods to,” Obama told reporters.

But he insisted he never said that Britain would be “punished” for its decision to leave the European Union through its historic Brexit vote, and said the U.S. and U.K. will continue to have a “special” relationship.

“What I committed to Theresa is that we will consult closely with her as she and her government move forward with Brexit negotiations to ensure that we don’t see adverse effects in the trade and commercial relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom,” the president said.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that the consequences of the decision don’t end up unravelling what is already a very strong and robust economic relationship,” he said.

Carmine Sabia

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