British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden are expected to reaffirm relations between their two countries on the eve of the G7 summit, despite Washington’s warnings over Brexit tensions.
The couple is set to meet on an “Atlantic Charter” when they meet in Cornwall, in the south-west of England, on Thursday for their first face-to-face talks since Biden took office in January.
The agreement will be based on the historic 1941 joint statement made by then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill and then-President Franklin D Roosevelt presenting the vision of Washington and London for a new world order after World War II.
Johnson and Biden will also establish a task force to watch the resumption of the UK-US journey, which has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, and discuss how to provide vaccines to the world’s poorest nations.
But discussions can be tempered when Biden, as expected, warns Johnson – one of the leaders of the 2016 Brexit campaign – about frictions in Northern Ireland sparked by the UK’s departure from the European Union.
The U.S. leader is concerned that Johnson’s strong disagreements with the blockade on Northern Ireland’s so-called Brexit protocol could undermine a 1998 peace deal between the United States – the Good Friday Agreement – which ended 30 years of bloodshed in the region.
“President Biden has been crystal clear about his strong belief in the Good Friday Agreement as a foundation for peaceful coexistence in Northern Ireland,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
“Any step that endangers or threatens it will not be accepted by the United States.”
Biden seeks to “link close allies”
Biden’s visit to the UK marks his first trip abroad since he became president.
After meeting Johnson, he will attend the G7 summit in Cornwall from Friday to Sunday, with the British Prime Minister and the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada.
Biden will then attend a NATO summit on Monday, a US-EU summit on Tuesday and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva the next day.
He will try to use the trip to shatter his multilateral credentials after the tumult of Donald Trump’s presidency, which left many American allies in Europe and Asia bewildered and some alienated.
James Bays of Al Jazeera, reported from Cornwall, said Biden’s idea was to “link his close allies” after Trump’s years in office.
“We’ll see that with the G7 partners first, then with the NATO alliance that certainly took a contusion after Trump … then with the EU,” Bays said.
Biden wants to “get all these allies on the same page with a range of different global issues” including the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, climate change and how to deal with rival powers such as China and Russia, he added. .
Since the G7 last clashed two years ago, COVID-19 has killed more than 3.7 million people worldwide and decimated economies plagued by tight locks and mass layoffs.
As criticism grows over a WHO study in January and February on the origins of the coronavirus, the U.S. president will also encourage G7 leaders to call in a second WHO poll, Bloomberg he reported Thursday, citing a communications project.
Hours after that report, European leaders themselves called for a new unrestricted study on the origins of COVID-19, which was first identified in central China in late 2019.
“Investigators need full access to everything needed to truly find the source of this pandemic,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels.
The head of the European Council, Charles Michel, has taken up von der Leyen’s call.
“The world has a right to know exactly what happened so we can learn lessons,” he said.
But EU diplomats have said the EU’s support for a new study is for the most part symbolic, that the blockade would not be directly involved.
Last month, the U.S. mission to the United Nations in Geneva said the original WHO report was “insufficient and inconclusive,” calling for a second investigation to be conducted, including in China.
Biden said in May that U.S. intelligence agencies were pursuing rival theories, including the possibility of a lab accident in China.
The WHO report said the virus was probably transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, and that “introduction through a laboratory incident was considered an extremely unlikely route.”