Britain vows to remain diplomatic power, keep U.N. veto

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Britain’s United Nations ambassador asserted on Friday that the country’s strength as a world power would not be weakened by its exit from the European Union and vowed that London would never give up its U.N. Security Council veto.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon waves to the media during his arrival at Jose Marti international airport in Havana, Cuba June 22, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa

Britain voted on Thursday to leave the European Union, which it joined more than 40 years ago, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and sending global financial markets into a tailspin.

“The UK is and will continue to be a diplomatic power. The UK is and will continue to be a permanent member of the Security Council. We take those responsibilities incredibly seriously,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters.

Britain is one of five permanent veto-wielding powers on the 15-member Security Council. The other permanent members are France, the United States, China and Russia.

In the wake of the British referendum, leaders in Scotland and Northern Ireland - where the majority of people voted to remain in the EU - have raised the prospect of breaking away from the United Kingdom, leaving just England and Wales.

Northern Ireland could be reunited with Ireland, which is already a U.N. member, while Scotland could vote for independence from Britain and then become the United Nations’ newest member state.

If such a scenario played out, Scotland and Northern Ireland would need to agree on Wales and England assuming the permanent membership of the U.N. Security Council and veto power.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the former bloc’s republics agreed - by signing the Alma-Ata Protocol - to transfer the Soviet Union U.N. membership to Russia, which included the U.N. Security Council veto power.

“The fundamentals of the UK’s strength in the world will endure. Our economy, our world class diplomacy and armed forces, our commitment to international development, helping the world’s poorest, and above all, here at the United Nations, our permanent seat on the Security Council,” Rycroft said.

It would be virtually impossible for any other country to try and strip Britain of its Security Council veto as the U.N. Charter would need to be amended. That requires approval by two-thirds of the 193-member General Assembly and the five Security Council veto powers.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday he expects Britain to continue its leadership at the world body, particularly on development issues.

“At the U.N., we look forward to continuing our work with the United Kingdom and the European Union, both important partners,” Ban’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said in a statement. “When we work together, we are stronger.”

He said that as Britain and the European Union begin to negotiate a departure, Ban “trusts in Europe’s well-proven history of pragmatism and common responsibility in the interest of European citizens.”

Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe