President Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now underway in the southwest of England. They are expected to commit to work on opening up travel between the US and the UK and lifting restrictions put in place to stop the spread of Covid-19, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The two leaders exchanged pleasantries, but did not speak further with reporters prior to the talks.
Biden said he had been to the UK many times, but it was his first stop as president. Biden noted that it was a pleasure to meet Johnson’s wife and joked that both he and Johnson were “married.”
Previously, Biden greeted Johnson along a stretch of ocean to launch their first face-to-face meeting. The two men-women, Jill Biden and Carrie Johnson, also joined the greeting on a terrace overlooking St. Ives Bay in Cornwall.
“It’s beautiful. I don’t want to go home,” Biden said, according to polar reporters.
The foursome climbed a flight of stairs to enter, where the old Atlantic Charter was displayed for the leaders to view.
The leaders plan to sign an updated version of the document that better reflects the 21st century world. The new Atlantic Charter will be modeled on the landmark statement by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941, which set out American and British goals for the world after the end of World War II, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.
While reviewing the charter, Biden and Johnson both wore masks. Outside, the leaders and their wives were maskless.
The new charter will outline priorities, values and challenges, including defending democracy, reaffirming the importance of collective security, building a fairer and more sustainable global trading system, combating cyber-attacks, tackling the climate crisis, protecting biodiversity and ending the coronavirus pandemic, said a source familiar with the matter.
Some more background: The personal dynamics between the leaders of the United States and Britain has often played a key role in the “special relationship” between the two transatlantic powers. Roosevelt and Churchill were famously close, as were Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President Bill Clinton, and then, to the surprise of many, Blair and US President George W. Bush during the Iraq War.
Johnson was a favorite of former US President Donald Trump, who praised him for his support for Brexit, Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. During the 2020 campaign, Biden called Johnson a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump.
Biden still has deep reservations about Britain’s departure from the European Union — a move Johnson championed and advocated as prime minister. Biden is expected to pressure Johnson during their talks on the matter, and specifically on how it might affect the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.
Hear what the two leaders said during their meeting: