British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hailed Joe Biden as “a big breath of fresh air” because the US President wants to work with London on a huge range of issues ranging from climate change and COVID to security.
“It’s new, it’s interesting and we’re working very hard together,” Mr Johnson said of the talks between the two leaders.
“We went on for about an hour and 20 or so. It was a long, long, good session. We covered a huge range of subjects.
“It’s a big breath of fresh air.”
The duo and their wives met for the first time on Thursday (British time), ahead of the start of the Group of Seven advanced economies’ meeting in Cornwall, in southern England.
Mr Biden – who is embarking on a week of diplomacy on his first official trip as US Presidetn – is keen to burnish his multilateral credentials after the tumult of Donald Trump’s presidency, which left many US allies in Europe and Asia bewildered and some alienated.
Mr Johnson played down differences with Washington about the impact of Brexit on the peace in Northern Ireland, saying that the US, Britain and European Union had “complete harmony” on finding solutions to uphold the 1998 peace deal.
“There’s complete harmony on the need to keep going, find solutions, and make sure we uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Johnson said.
“Northern Ireland is a fantastic place and it’s got amazing potential. It is a great, great part of the UK.”
Asked if Mr Biden had made his alarm about the situation in Northern Ireland clear, Mr Johnson said: “No he didn’t.
“America, the United States, Washington, the UK, plus the European Union have one thing we absolutely all want to do,” Mr Johnson said.
“That is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and make sure we keep the balance of the peace process going. That is absolutely common ground,” Mr Johnson said.
“You know, I’m optimistic.”
Mr Biden and Mr Johnson also authorised an update of the Atlantic Charter — a declaration signed by British prime minister Winston Churchill and US president Franklin D Roosevelt that set out common goals for the post-World War II world, including freer trade, disarmament and the right of all people to self-determination.
The new version of the charter takes in the challenge posed by countries such as China and Russia. It also 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”.
They also announced a new US-British task force to work on resuming travel between their countries. Most such travel has been banned since March 2020.
After the leaders’ 10 minutes of official talks, Mr Johnson and his new wife, Carrie, and Mr Biden and US first lady Jill strolled along a sunny Cornish beach, the two couples hand in hand.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is expected to arrive in Britain later on Friday (Australian time). He has been invited to the G7 as a special guest and is expected to meet Mr Johnson, Mr Biden and the Queen during his stay.