United Kingdom

Boris Johnson meets with Joe Biden for crunch talks on ‘special relationship’

The Prime Minister sat down with Joe Biden in the Oval Office to cover a wide range of issues (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has met with President Joe Biden at the White House as he aims to build on their shared goal of tackling climate change.

In an interview aired on Tuesday morning in the US, the Prime Minister emphasised the so-called ‘special relationship’ the UK has with its transatlantic ally.

He told NBC: ‘It is the job of any Prime Minister of the UK to have a good relationship with the President of the United States. That applies to Donald Trump. It applies to Joe Biden.’

On his flight, the PM said relations with the US are ‘about as good as they have been at any time in decades’.

But despite all of this, today’s meeting showed the UK is unlikely to strike a post-Brexit free trade deal with the States anytime soon – as the Biden administration focuses on other priorities.

The President – who is very proud of his Irish heritage – has expressed concerns about Britain’s handling of the Northern Ireland peace process following Brexit.

He warned there would be no trade deal if stability in the region is jeopardised by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, particularly the introduction of a closed border.

Biden welcomed the ‘great progress’ on the easing of trade barriers between the UK and US (Picture: Getty Images/AFP)

Johnson and Biden found common ground on climate change, as both leaders prepare for the crunch COP26 summit in Glasgow later this year.

The PM has also been in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, with global warming, Covid-19 and security high on the agenda.

Johnson will seek to encourage tougher action on climate change during a series of high-level meetings, focusing particularly on coal, climate, cars and trees.

Downing Street said he would focus on supporting developing countries minimise and adapt to the impact of climate change.

It comes after Biden pledged to double US funding for fighting the crisis, pledging to work with congress to raise the amount to $11.4billion (£8.3billion) per year by 2024.

This would help developed countries meet their goal of donating £100billion per year from 2020 to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

The UK has committed £11.6billion in international climate finance over the next five years.

The Prime Minister thanked the President for his speech at the UN, which he said ‘made the difference’ (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

Johnson was also preparing to push for an easing of travel restrictions between the states and the UK, but the US has already extended an olive branch.

Yesterday it was announced that from November, fully vaccinated travellers from the UK and the EU will be able to travel to the US once again.

Johnson and Biden were also expected to discuss the new Aukus military pact between the UK, US and Australia.

The PM said the trilateral defence partnership would work ‘hand-in-glove to preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific’.

But there has been some fallout, with France accusing the three countries of behaving like Trump with their ‘brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision’.

Today Johnson said the alliance has ‘great potential to benefit the whole world’, but he made no mention of the French uproar.

After meeting Biden and his wife Jill in the White House, Johnson will have dinner with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Washington.

Boris Johnson checks out the New York skyline as he visits the city for UN talks on climate change, Covid and security (Picture: No10 Downing Street)

The deal proved a blow to French industry, as Australia has torn up a 2016 deal with Paris worth £30bn for 12 diesel-powered submarines.

Before his sit-down with Biden, Johnson met Vice President Kamala Harris and praised the US for lifting the ‘curious ban’ on British beef and lifting a tariff on Scotch whiskey.

He described Biden’s climate funding commitment as a ‘great day for the world’ and praised the bravery of US troops in the evacuation of Afghanistan.

The PM told her: ‘I’ve heard a lot about you but it’s fantastic to be here and I want to thank the US government, your government, for the many ways in which we are cooperating now I think at a higher and more intense level than at anytime I can remember.

‘I want to signal out the amazing work, the brave work, of the US military is helping the Kabul airlift. We could always done that without US leadership and I’m grateful for that.’

The Vice President said it was an ‘honour’ to welcome Johnson to the White House.

Biden warned there would be no trade deal with the UK if Northern Ireland’s peace process is jeopardised by Brexit (Picture: Reuters)

She said: ‘As you will discuss with the president, the relationship between our two countries is a long and enduring one, one that we value based on shared priorities and based on as we know, what is increasingly evident about partnerships and alliances around the world.

‘We are indeed interconnected and interdependent in so many ways and in many ways, more than before.’

‘And of course we must work and continue to work together to uphold and protect democratic principles and values around the globe. And we look forward to that continuing relationship, and our relationship as partners.’

During his meeting with the Prime Minister, Joe Biden raised prospects that the ban on British lamb in the US could also be lifted.

Despite Johnson’s optimistic tone, some thorny issues remain between the US and the UK.

The pair discussed America’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan and how to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

Overall, Johnson backed Biden’s decision to pull troops out, although he admitted he would have handled it ‘differently’.

He told NBC: ‘America has been there for 20 years. It’s a respectable argument to say enough is enough. You can’t endlessly sub contract the government of your country to other people. There has to be some sort of system.

‘My country, the UK, owes a big debt to the US military for the incredible professionalism and sacrifice they showed at that airport, the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Biden and Johnson are expected to discuss ways to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan (Picture: EPA)

‘It was an amazing operation. It’s never going to be an easy thing to do to pull out of somewhere like Afghanistan after 20 years in a clean and straightforward way. But you can’t spend your whole time trying to run another country by proxy.

‘I think that it was a massive logistical success, what they did.’

In August Johnson defended the pulling out of all remaining British troops from the Central Asian country.

He said: it was an ‘illusion’ to think the international military mission could have continued without US forces.

In a statement after the evacuation of UK personnel, Johnson said: ‘We would not have wished to leave in this way.’

Johnson travelled to the US capital from New York by train to meet the President (Picture: PA)

Meanwhile Johnson has declined to commit to getting a post-Brexit trade deal with the US by the next election.

The Prime Minister said he has ‘plenty of reason to be optimistic’ about the prospects of getting the free trade agreement touted by Leave supporters as a major prize of leaving the European Union, but noted Americans ‘do negotiate very hard’.

Biden sought to reassure the UK that the case of Harry Dunn, who was killed in a road crash involving US diplomat Anne Sacoolas, is ‘being worked on’.

Johnson said his US counterpart had been ‘personally trying to move things along’ in the case.

He added: ‘I know that the president has been personally trying to move things along, and I’m grateful for that.’

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