Johnson hails Biden as a "breath of fresh air" after first meeting

Cornwall, UK - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to downplay his differences with Joe Biden, claiming the new president was a "breath of fresh air" and insisting there was "absolutely common ground" over Northern Ireland.

The two leaders admired the view over Carbis Bay before their meeting.
The two leaders admired the view over Carbis Bay before their meeting.  © Imago/UPI Photo

Following the two leaders' first meeting on Thursday, Johnson said he was "optimistic" the peace process would be kept going.

The president's concerns over the way the British Government is treating the protocol with the European Union that governs post-Brexit arrangements on the island of Ireland threatened to overshadow the talks between the two.

Biden's first overseas visit has provided the president with the opportunity to repair some of the international relations damaged by predecessor Donald Trump.

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Johnson said: "It's wonderful to listen to the Biden administration and Joe Biden because there's so much that they want to do together with us - on security, on NATO, to climate change."

"It's fantastic, it's a breath of fresh air," he added.

Biden said the meeting, which lasted around an hour and 20 minutes, had been "very productive."

He told reporters in Cornwall the revitalized Atlantic Charter agreed upon by the two men would address the "key challenges of this century - cybersecurity, emerging technologies, global health, and climate change."

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The two leaders spent almost an hour and a half in their discussion on Thursday.
The two leaders spent almost an hour and a half in their discussion on Thursday.  © Imago/UPI Photo

The issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol - the post-Brexit trading arrangements which have led to a dispute between Britain and the EU – was raised by the US side in advance of the discussions.

The protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the European market for traded goods, in order to avoid a hard border with Ireland. It would mean a trade barrier in the Irish Sea for goods crossing from Great Britain.

The dispute has inflamed tensions with unionists in Northern Ireland, while nationalists oppose a hard border on the island.

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The EU has threatened to launch a trade war against Britain if it fails to implement checks on goods entering Northern Ireland under the terms of the Brexit "divorce" settlement that Johnson signed.

The US charge d'affaires indicated that if Johnson accepted demands to follow EU rules on agricultural standards, Biden would ensure it would not "negatively affect the chances of reaching a US/UK free trade deal."

A No. 10 readout following the meeting between Johnson and Biden said: "The leaders agreed that both the EU and the UK had a responsibility to work together and to find pragmatic solutions to allow unencumbered trade between Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland."

The meeting of the two leaders comes on the eve of the G7 summit that will bring together the world's wealthiest democracies at a time when the West faces difficult judgments in responding to the rise of China as an economic and political force and the destabilizing actions of Russia.

As part of that process, the new Atlantic Charter commits Britain and the US to applying their combined strength to the enormous challenges facing the planet today, including global defense and security, "building back better" from coronavirus, and stopping climate change.

Cover photo: Imago/UPI Photo

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