WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will agree on a new Atlantic Charter on Thursday, modeled after the 1941 agreement, which outlines eight key areas where the US and the UK plan to work together.
The new charter will emphasize that “although the world is a very different place from 1941, the values the UK and US share remain the same,” according to a preview of the updated charter released by Johnson’s office at 10 Downing Street.
Those values include “defending democracy, reaffirming the importance of collective security and building a fair and sustainable global trading system,” the release said.
The charter will also be committed to combating the modern challenges of cyber threats and climate change and ending the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the agreement, Biden and Johnson will also work to reopen travel between the US and the UK as soon as possible. They plan to create a new travel task force that will make recommendations on how to safely reopen international travel.
“Many people in the UK and US have been unable to see family and friends for more than 400 days due to travel restrictions due to the coronavirus,” Johnson’s office said. “The task force will work to explore options for resuming travel between the UK and the US and ensure that the UK and US share close thinking and expertise on international travel policy in the future.”
To end the pandemic globally, the two leaders are expected to agree to collaborate on genomic sequencing and assessing Covid-19 variants.
They also plan to agree to a new deal to be signed next year to help alleviate the hurdles UK tech companies face when working with US counterparts.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Wednesday confirmed the updated Atlantic Charter agreement aboard Air Force One while en route to the UK for Biden’s First Foreign Trip As President.
“There will be a refresh of the Atlantic Charter, which is now 80 years old,” Sullivan told reporters. “So there will be an updated statement of principles between the US and the UK, as free societies and free peoples, speaking out about what we believe in in this 21st century.”
The Atlantic Charter was signed in 1941 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, outlining their goals for after World War II. Johnson’s office described it as “one of the greatest triumphs of British-American relations and did more than any other agreement to shape the world order, leading directly to the creation of the UN and NATO.”
Biden and Johnson will hold a bilateral meeting on Thursday in Carbis Bay, Cornwall in southwest England, ahead of the G7 summit with other world leaders, which starts Friday.
But while the two leaders will try to evoke a spirit of historic unity on Thursday, there were signs of early tensions.
Their joint announcement was somewhat overshadowed in the UK after the Biden administration warned Johnson not to let Brexit threaten the peace in Northern Ireland.
The British Prime Minister was the main architect of his country’s departure from the European Union, which Biden has always opposed. The president, who is of Irish descent, is among those concerned that Brexit is fueling sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland.
Decades of conflict between mostly Catholic “nationalists” – who want Northern Ireland to reunite with the Republic of Ireland – and mainly Protestant “unionists” – who want the area to remain part of the UK – were calmed by a 1998 peace deal called the Good Friday Agreement.
Brexit has put pressure on that deal as it changes complex trade rules and threatens to disrupt the delicate settlement between the province’s two rival communities.
“President Biden has been crystal clear about his unwavering belief in the Good Friday Agreement as the basis for peaceful coexistence in Northern Ireland,” Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One. “Any steps that jeopardize or undermine it would not be welcomed by the United States.”
And while the Atlantic Charter represents the latest chapter in the “special relationship” between Washington and London, the British government this week said Johnson doesn’t like that term. An aide told The Atlantic in a profile about Johnson that the prime minister found the phrase needy.