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Spill may chill US-UK ties

British government officials and companies are becoming apprehensive about the future of Anglo-American ties, following US President Barack Obama’s “stridency” over BP’s oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico.

business Updated: Jun 10, 2010 21:28 IST

British government officials and companies are becoming apprehensive about the future of Anglo-American ties, following US President Barack Obama’s “stridency” over BP’s oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico.

British politicians, business leaders and officials have opposed the US’ response to the oil spill, in particular Obama’s strong statements like he wants to “kick ass”.

The British fear that a once-special relationship looks like being buried, at least temporarily, under a welter of words from both sides of the Atlantic. Prime Minister David Cameron, “disturbed” by the US attacks, will call Obama at the weekend to discuss the oil spill.

The controversy has centred round BP’s inability to cap the spill. Recent statements by BP CEO Tony Hayward have been seen as insensitive in America, prompting Obama to comment. On this side of the Atlantic, commentators have been visibly riled by the Americans’ repeated reference to the firm as “British Petroleum” than BP as it has been known since 1998.

Former Conservative party leader Norman Tebbit, called President Obama’s response “despicable,” and “a crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of partisan political presidential petulance against a multinational company.”

However, even while protesting, British commentators have been more forgiving of Hayward, who caused outrage in the US with his statements.

“The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume,” Hayward said last week. The environmental impact, he predicted, was likely to be “very, very modest.” The BP chief even posted a message on Facebook saying, “I want my life back” — seen as grotesque self-indulgence in the context of the deaths of 11 Americans in the oil spill.

Obama reacted with fury: “He wouldn’t be working for me after any of those statements.”