LONDON: Boris Johnson and Joe Biden will work on efforts to resume transatlantic travel and agree a new commitment for the UK and US to cooperate on challenges including climate change and security when they meet today (Thursday).
The US President will meet the Prime Minister in Cornwall on his first overseas visit since entering the White House, with the two leaders set to agree a new Atlantic Charter to underpin shared commitments on pressing international issues.
But despite the close ties between the UK and US, the ongoing issues raised by Brexit in Northern Ireland have caused concern in the White House, with Biden’s aides insisting that nothing should be done which puts the peace process at risk.
On the eve of the visit, Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said: “President Biden believes and has said that the Northern Ireland Protocol, as part of the agreement between the UK and the European Union, is critical to ensuring that the spirit, promise and future of the Good Friday Agreement is protected.”
Downing Street said the two leaders would reinforce their shared commitment to preserve the gains made by the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in Northern Ireland.
The meeting of the two leaders comes on the eve of the G7 summit which will bring together the world’s wealthiest democracies at a time when the West faces difficult judgments in responding to the rise of China as an economic and political force and the destabilising actions of Russia.
As part of that process, the new Atlantic Charter will commit the UK and US to apply their combined strength to the enormous challenges facing the planet today, including global defence and security, “building back better” from coronavirus, and stopping climate change.
The original Atlantic Charter was a joint statement made by Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt in 1941, setting out the UK and US goals for the post-Second World War world. Eighty years on, Johnson — who dislikes the term “special relationship” to describe the transatlantic partnership — said the new agreement would underline that the UK and US remain “the closest of partners and the greatest of allies”.
Johnson said: “While Churchill and Roosevelt faced the question of how to help the world recover following a devastating war, today we have to reckon with a very different but no less intimidating challenge — how to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic.
“And as we do so, co-operation between the UK and US, the closest of partners and the greatest of allies, will be crucial for the future of the world’s stability and prosperity.”
The agreements being made in Cornwall “rooted as they are in our shared values and outlook, will form the foundation of a sustainable global recovery”, he said. “Eighty years ago the US president and British prime minister stood together promising a better future. Today we do the same.” No immediate breakthrough is expected on resuming travel between the US and UK, which ground to a halt as the pandemic hit.
But the leaders are expected to agree to work to relaunch UK-US trips as soon as possible through a new taskforce which will make recommendations on safely reopening international travel. The taskforce will be overseen in the UK by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and will be chaired by senior officials in the Department for Transport and their US counterparts. During their meeting the Prime Minister and president will also discuss ways of further enhancing the economic relationship, including through a resolution to the trade dispute around subsidies to Airbus and Boeing which led to tit-for-tat tariffs. It is also expected that the leaders will agree to pursue a landmark bilateral technology agreement to be signed next year, aimed at reducing the barriers British tech firms face when trying to work with their US counterparts.
As the pandemic continues, the two leaders are expected to agree to scale up joint work on genomic sequencing and variant assessments, with expert agencies working together as part of an integrated global surveillance system.
The original Atlantic Charter was devised at sea on board the Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales and US heavy cruiser USS Augusta. The modern namesake of HMS Prince of Wales, one of the Royal Navy’s two aircraft carriers, will sail along the coast of Cornwall to mark the occasion.
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