Patrick Semansky / AP
In their first face-to-face meeting, President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed a 21st century version of the historic Atlantic Charter, an attempt to portray their countries as the main world leaders attacking the biggest global challenges.
The two leaders pledged to work “closely with all partners who share our democratic values” and to counter “the efforts of those who seek to undermine our alliances and our institutions.”
The charter includes a commitment to cooperate on climate change, technology and science. He also reaffirms his support for NATO while stressing opposition to electoral interference and disinformation campaigns.
“We must ensure that democracies – starting with our own – can respond to the critical challenges of our time,” the document said. By highlighting their similarities as “democracies,” the two attempt to create a clear contrast with Russia and China.
The document is a symbolic nod to the original Atlantic Charter signed in 1941 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. This document was a model for emerging from World War II and included a set of common principles, such as trade liberalization, labor standards, and commitments to restore self-government to countries that had been occupied.
Biden has often spoken of his presidency in grandiose historical terms, and he has repeatedly hailed Roosevelt as a role model for his time in the White House. Likewise, Johnson regards Churchill as a personal idol and has even written a book about him.
The new charter comes not after a world war but a pandemic, and it attempts to clarify what the coming decades can and should look like from the shared perspective of the two leaders, officials said. The signing of this charter signals a revival of the historic “special relationship,” a phrase Churchill coined to describe the depth of ties between the two democracies.
Before the two men signed this new Atlantic charter, they viewed a copy of the original document, under glass, under the gaze of journalists. The rest of their meeting was held behind closed doors.
Fox Photos / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Roosevelt and Churchill forged a deep wartime friendship that some historians now call “saving the world.”
There have been many questions about the “special” (or not special) nature of Biden and Johnson’s personal relationship. Prior to Thursday’s meeting in Cornwall ahead of the Group of Seven summit, the two had never met in person.
And yet the first impressions had already been made. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden mocked Johnson during a fundraiser, calling him a “physical and emotional clone” of former President Donald Trump.
Biden opposed the UK’s exit from the European Union. Johnson championed Brexit and ultimately led it to Parliament. Biden wants to rebuild America’s global alliances. Johnson is seen as the epitome of nationalist populist politics. Biden ran for president as an explicit rebuke of Trump. Johnson was known to be particularly friends with the former president, who had once admired him “Britain Trump”.
Trump, and some political observers, saw Brexit in a vein similar to Trump’s “America First” philosophy.
Yet the first European leader Biden spoke to after his inauguration was Johnson, who was quick to acknowledge the president’s victory at a time when his old friend Trump was bitterly fighting it.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters this week that Biden and Johnson had had a few phone calls, and he described the conversations as “warm” and “constructive.”
“They have been very business-focused,” he said.
Northern Ireland, the trade deal in the spotlight
However, the two men are not starting from a clean slate.
Last year, during the presidential campaign, Biden warned that a post-Brexit free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom could be threatened if the peace in Northern Ireland becomes a “victim” of Brexit.
We cannot allow the Good Friday deal that brought peace to Northern Ireland to be a victim of Brexit.
Any trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom must be conditional on compliance with the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period. https://t.co/Ecu9jPrcHL
– Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 16, 2020
A side effect of Brexit has been renewed tension in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the UK, which eventually left the EU this year. The Republic of Ireland is still part of the EU.
As part of an agreement to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland following a Brexit, a customs border has been created, dividing Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK . In April, it helped spark some of the worst riots the region has seen in years.
Biden, who often speaks of his Irish heritage, has warned that he will cancel any trade deal if Britain damages the 1998 Good Friday deal, which brought peace to the region after decades of violence. The EU hopes Biden can pressure Johnson to respect his government’s agreement to institute the required customs controls along the border.
Johnson is eager to strike a free trade deal with the United States. While such a deal would not be particularly lucrative – trade barriers between the two countries are already low – it would boost Johnson’s prestige and help him deliver on his promise to British voters that leaving the EU would free the Kingdom – Uni to enter into new trade agreements. with the big savings.
Recovery in the event of a pandemic, climate change
A trade deal between the UK and the US is not particularly high on Biden’s agenda. There are other issues, such as pandemic recovery and climate change, that are important to Biden – issues on which the two men are expected to find important common ground.
Johnson praised Biden’s decision to join the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization. Trump had abandoned both.
Biden, who hopes to lead a G-7 push to end the pandemic, is expected to announce a new donation of COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries later Thursday, news that was leaked ahead of his meeting with Johnson. The UK has so far refused to send vaccines overseas.
President Biden will announce in Cornwall on Thursday that the United States has purchased 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccine to give to COVAX to help countries without enough doses, according to @NPR @tamarakeithNPR This is a big deal. it comes two days before the opening of the G7 summit here
– franklangfitt (@franklangfitt) June 9, 2021