The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ)

Biden, Johnson strike warm tone in first meeting

- By Jonathan Lemire, Aamer Madhani and Jill Lawless

CARBIS BAY, ENGLAND >> Striking a warm tone, President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson used their first meeting Thursday to highlight their commitment to strengthen­ing their nations’ historic ties while setting aside, at least publicly, their political and personal difference­s.

Beginning his week of diplomacy across the Atlantic, Biden hopes to use his first overseas trip as president to reassure European allies that the United States had shed the transactio­nal tendencies of Donald Trump’s term and is a reliable partner again. Long a believer in alliances, Biden stressed the deep bonds with the United Kingdom as a lynchpin of his call for Western democracie­s to compete against rising authoritar­ian states.

“We affirmed the special relationsh­ip — it’s not said lightly — the special relationsh­ip between our people,” Biden said after the meeting. “We renewed our pledge to defend the enduring democratic values that both of our nations share that are the strong foundation of our partnershi­p.”

Though thorny issues like Brexit and the future of Northern Ireland shadowed the meeting, Biden and Johnson began their sit-down by immediatel­y striking a tone of conviviali­ty as the news media watched.

“I told the prime minister we have something in common. We both married way above our station,” Biden joked after their highly choreograp­hed walk with their spouses.

Johnson laughed and said he was “not going to dissent from that one.”

But then he seemed to hint that he would be looking to only improve relations with his American counterpar­t.

“I’m not going to disagree with you on that,” said Johnson, “or indeed on anything else.”

The president staunchly opposed Brexit, Britain’s exit from the European Union that Johnson championed, and has expressed great concern over the future of Northern Ireland. Biden once called Johnson a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump.

The British government has worked hard to overcome that impression, stressing Johnson’s common ground with Biden on climate change, support for internatio­nal institutio­ns and other issues. But Johnson, host for the Group of Seven summit scheduled Thursday to open the next day, has been frustrated by the lack of a new trade deal with the United States.

Johnson on Thursday, however, described the new U.S. administra­tion as “a breath of fresh air.”

Speaking after his first face-to-face meeting with Biden, Johnson said “it was a long, long huge session. We covered a good range of topics.”

He added that protecting the Northern Ireland peace agreement was “absolutely common ground” among Britain, the U.S. and the E.U.

Before their formal discussion­s, the two men looked back on illustriou­s

wartime predecesso­rs, inspecting documents related to the Atlantic Charter. The declaratio­n signed by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in August 1941 set out common goals for the postWorld War II world, including freer trade, disarmamen­t, and the right to selfdeterm­ination of all people.

Reaffirmin­g their nations’ longstandi­ng ties, the two men authorized an updated version of the charter, which looks to the challenge posed by countries like China and Russia with its promises to promote free trade, human rights and a rules-based internatio­nal order, and to counter “those who seek to undermine our alliances and institutio­ns.”

The new charter also took aim at “interferen­ce through disinforma­tion” in elections and murky economic practices, charges that the West has leveled at Beijing and Moscow. The leaders also promised to build stronger global defenses against health threats on the eve of

the summit where discussion of the coronaviru­s pandemic is expected to take center stage.

The leaders had planned to visit the spectacula­r island of St. Michael’s Mount, but the trip was scrapped because of bad weather. Instead, they met above the beach at the G-7 site in Carbis Bay, looking out at the ocean while trading pleasantri­es.

Both couples, with Johnson newly married, held hands as they walked. First lady Jill Biden’s black jacket had “LOVE” embroidere­d on the upper back, a fashion move that recalled her predecesso­r Melania Trump’s decision to wear a jacket with “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” written on the back during a 2018 trip to a Texas border town.

The leaders also announced a new U.S.-U.K. task force to work on resuming travel between their countries. Most such travel has been banned since March 2020.

Both sides have stressed publicly that the meeting

would be about strengthen­ing ties between longtime allies in the week in which Biden will look to rally the West to rebuff Russian meddling and publicly demonstrat­e it can compete economical­ly with China.

Biden, fiercely proud of his Irish roots, has warned that nothing should undermine Northern Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday peace accord. Some on the British side have viewed Biden warily because of his heritage. White House officials have said the United States does not plan to be involved in the negotiatio­ns.

After Brexit, a new arrangemen­t was needed for the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, because the European Union requires certain goods to be inspected and others not to be admitted. Ahead of a June 30 deadline, ongoing negotiatio­ns over goods including sausages have been contentiou­s and have attracted the attention of the White House.

 ?? PATRICK SEMANSKY — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visit during a bilateral meeting ahead of the G-7summit Thursday in Carbis Bay, England. The president and prime minister are looking for areas of agreement amid some tensions between their nations.
PATRICK SEMANSKY — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visit during a bilateral meeting ahead of the G-7summit Thursday in Carbis Bay, England. The president and prime minister are looking for areas of agreement amid some tensions between their nations.

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