• Sat. Jun 19th, 2021

Boris Johnson hails ‘indestructible relationship’ with US despite Joe Biden’s Brexit ‘concerns’

ByAmeerah O'Connor

Jun 11, 2021
Boris Johnson hails 'indestructible relationship' with US despite Joe Biden's Brexit 'concerns'

Boris Johnson has hailed the “indestructible relationship” between the UK and the US – but despite the outward bonhomie there are warnings that Joe Biden will still have “grave concerns” about Brexit.

The Prime Minister has sought to reframe the ‘special relationship’, which he sees as “needy and weak”.

He told the BBC the alliance could be described as “deep and meaningful” or “indestructible relationship”, stressing he had “terrific” talks with President Biden covering “about 25 subjects in some detail”.

Mr Johnson also downplayed suggestions that he was rebuked over the Northern Ireland protocol, stressing “the President didn’t say anything of the kind”.

Dominic Raab said the two “didn’t linger on” the issue during the “incredibly warm bilateral meeting yesterday, which overran”.

But Sir Peter Westmacott, a former ambassador, said that while their personal “chemistry” would be strong, Mr Biden’s long-held concerns about Brexit could overshadow an otherwise good start to the relationship.

“It was very striking that just a few days before the G7 summit, before President Biden’s visit, that his acting ambassador was asked to go in and speak to the British Government in very firm terms,” he told Sky News.

Any risk to the Good Friday Agreement was “a matter of grave concern”, he added.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

08:48 AM

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Joe Biden doesn’t understand Northern Ireland

Joe Biden is a classic of the type: a man of tenuous Irish descent who loudly declaims his Irishness yet clearly has little experience or understanding of the country, its history or inhabitants, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards.

Among his worst habits is reverentially and irritatingly quoting the same few lines of Yeats and Seamus Heaney at every opportunity. The US President has been at it again this week. Somewhat undiplomatically, on his arrival in the UK, he recited part of WB Yeats’s poem Easter, 1916 – about the Easter Rising – in a speech at RAF Mildenhall.

Having little knowledge of or sympathy for unionists, Biden seems to be incapable of understanding why they feel threatened by what they see as the weaponisation of the Irish border to punish Britain.

Nor does he seem either willing or able to appreciate just what an outrage the Northern Ireland Protocol’s attempt to dismember the UK really is.

Read the rest of Ruth’s column here.

08:40 AM

Sea shanty serenades and a sausage-free beach barbecue for G7 leaders

Food prepared by Simon Stallard at The Hidden Hut

Angela Merkel sits on the beach, toes wriggling in the sand, while Justin Trudeau reclines in his deckchair, sipping on a buttered rum. In the background Joe Biden attempts to sing along to a Cornish sea shanty as Boris Johnson toasts a marshmallow by the fire pit.

Welcome to the G7 summit, British-style with a barbecue on the beach. The only thing missing is the rain. The forecast for Saturday night’s shindig for the leaders of the world’s seven richest nations is sunny skies and not a cloud in sight.

Before that, the global leaders will enjoy that other great British tradition: an audience with the Royals. On Friday, ahead of the barbecue, the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will all travel to Cornwall to woo the world’s most powerful leaders at a reception at the Eden Project.

Check out the mouth-watering menu here.

08:35 AM

Face masks should continue forever, says Sage scientist

Face masks and social distancing measures should continue “forever”, a senior scientist on the Sage committee that advises the Government has said.

Professor Susan Michie, who sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies that advises ministers, said that alongside vaccines, NHS test and trace, and border controls, “people’s behaviour” was a key factor towards controlling the pandemic.

She told Channel 5: “That is the behaviour of social distancing, of when you’re indoors, making sure there’s good ventilation or if it’s not, wearing face masks, of hands and surface hygiene. We will need to keep this going in the long term and that will be good not only for Covid, but also to reduce others diseases”.

Interrupted by a follow-up questions about how long she thought the measures should continue, the professor of health psychology said: “I think forever, to some extent.”

08:18 AM

David Baddiel accuses Boris Johnson of football ‘culture war game’

David Baddiel has accused Boris Johnson of playing a “culture war game” as the comedian urged football fans to support the England team in taking the knee during the Euros.

Asked whether Mr Johnson should say something about fans booing the gesture, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t know what Boris Johnson should or shouldn’t do. He probably should.

“Boris Johnson is playing a culture war game, like the rest of politicians at the moment. They’ve seized upon anything like this, thinking that appeals to what they imagine is their base.”

The Three Lions singer added: “That’s what’s going to be in Boris Johnson’s mind, I think more than whether or not he should straightforwardly support the England team and what they do. He’s not really a football fan anyway, I think.”

“A lot of the players have suffered racism. It’s a really good statement essentially, and we should just support them in doing it.”

08:07 AM

UK ‘on track’ for double-dose vaccine target, says minister

The UK is “on track” to meet a target of all over 50s being offered their second jab by June 21, the vaccines minister has said.

Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Breakfast: “We have got very high levels of uptake, in the 90 per cent, but we have got to make sure they get their second jab.

“Anyone who hasn’t had the jab, in that five or six per cent who didn’t have their jab, please come forward and have your first jab.

He added: “75 per cent of the 12,500 people who were infected with the Delta variant, 75 per cent, three quarters, hadn’t had a jab, so it’s really important.”

07:55 AM

Minister dodges questions about June 21 delay

Nadhim Zahawi has failed to deny reports that the June 21 roadmap will be delayed by up to a month.

Put to him that this is “clear”, the vaccines minister said: “We will share the data with the country on Monday.”

Asked how long the delay will be, he said: “All the way through, when the Prime Minister announced the roadmap to reopening our economy, taking our lives back, our freedoms back, there was a reason for the four weeks plus one.

“May 17 saw a very big reopening… it’s important we look at what the virus is doing. We will share it on Monday – there is only a weekend to go.”

07:52 AM

Minister backs ‘symbolism’ of footballers taking the knee

Nadhim Zahawi has said it was “only right that we back our team”, when asked if Boris Johnson supported the England squad’s decision to take the knee before matches.

“The elegant way, quite passionate way, that the England manager Gareth Southgate put this is exactly where the Prime Minister is, where this Government is,” the vaccines minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I think he articulated the emotions of young men beautifully and I think it’s only right that we back our team.”

It comes after education minister Gillian Keegan claimed taking the knee was “creating new divisions” in sport.

Asked about this, Mr Zahawi said: “The symbolism of reminding the world of how painful it is to be subjected to the racism that Marcus Rashford has been subjected to, whether on social media or elsewhere, I absolutely back.

“If you then extrapolate to a Black Lives Matter movement that has a political agenda…that’s a different place, that’s my point, which is why I think we just have to differentiate and rightly back our team.”

07:51 AM

No Brits will have to wait longer for vaccines as a result of 100m giveaway, minister pledges

The vaccines minister has said no one in the UK will have to wait longer for a Covid jab, despite donating 100m doses as part of a drive to vaccinate the globe by the end of 2022.

Nadhim Zahawi told the Radio 4’s Today programme: “Our priority is to make sure the British public is protected. Our deployment programme won’t be affected.”

But asked if the UK would go further, he said; “We are – the additional 100m [doses], there will be additional overseas development aid money on top of the £10bn budget.

“We are doing much more, as is the G7, as are the manufacturers.”

07:43 AM

No return to US-UK travel ‘imminently, says Foreign Secretary

The Foreign Secretary has played down the prospect of the return of travel between the UK and US any time soon.

Dominic Raab said the resumption of travel between the UK and the US was discussed by Boris Johnson and Joe Biden but there will be no announcement “imminently”.

He told Sky News: “We all want to do it, it was something that was discussed yesterday and we’ve got an idea… but it’s not something that we’ll be announcing imminently.”

07:35 AM

Harry Dunn’s mother ‘couldn’t be more grateful’ that bilateral included case

The mother of Harry Dunn has said “it means a tremendous amount” that Boris Johnson and Joe Biden discussed her son’s case during their first meetng.

Charlotte Charles told Radio 4’s Today programme: “The first time that Mr Johnson gets an opportunity to meet President Biden face-to-face and he raises Harry. We couldn’t be more grateful, it means a lot to us.

“It’s good to hear that it’s being discussed at the highest of levels but we are clearly anxious to await further information to see exactly where the comments made yesterday will lead to.

“My hope, as always, my family’s hope as always, is to ensure that I can complete my promise to Harry. We will not rest until justice is done.”

07:23 AM

Vaccine supply ‘tight’ but targets will be met, minister promises

Nadhim Zahawi has admitted that supply of the Pfizer vaccine will be tight over the next few weeks but insisted that it was “stable”.

Asked if it is going to be “tight” in the next few weeks, he said: “It will be, there is no doubt. Every time I’ve come on your show I’ve said that the determining factor in terms of vaccine in arms is supply.

“And supply remains finite, but it is stable, and Pfizer have done a great job in being consistent on their delivery schedule.”

But the vaccines minister told LBC he was “absolutely confident” that the UK would still “meet its targets for end of July”, of offering every adult at least one dose.

07:21 AM

Joe Biden ‘extremely sympathetic’ about Harry Dunn case

President Joe Biden is “extremely sympathetic” about the hit-and-run death of Harry Dunn and “actively engaged” in the case, Boris Johnson has said.

The 19-year old died in August 2019 after Anne Sacoolas’s car collided with his motorbike, moments after she had left the RAF base where her husband worked for a US intelligence agency. Days later she flew home after Washington told London that she had diplomatic immunity – meaning there could be no criminal prosecution.

Mr Johnson told the BBC: “He was extremely sympathetic, but this is not something that either government can control very easily because there are legal processes that are still going on.

“I think the difficulty is that there are limits to what the executive can do with the legal, with the judiciary and the legal system, but both sides are working together.”

The Prime Minister said Mr Biden, whose wife and one-year old daughter were killed in a car crash in 1972, “has his own personal reasons for feeling very deeply about the issue.”

07:14 AM

Full unlocking on June 21 ‘highly unlikely’, says Labour frontbencher

It is “highly unlikely” the full relaxation of coronavirus restrictions will go ahead later this month, Labour’s Lisa Nandy has said.

The shadow foreign secretary told the BBC: “I am desperate to unlock, I think like everybody else, to try to get back to normal. Here in the North West lots of us have been in almost continuous lockdown for nearly a year-and-a-half now and it’s just really starting to take its toll.

“But I think if we proceed too fast, if the Government can’t get control of the new variant that has emerged which is more transmissible than previous variants, then we could end up in another lockdown and this has got to be the last lockdown.”

When asked if she supported a delay she said: “I think it’s highly unlikely they are going to go ahead with full unlocking on [June] 21.”

07:12 AM

Government will not ‘haggle over integrity of UK’, says Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab has insisted it is the “dogmatic, purist approach that the EU is taking that is the risk to Good Friday Agreement”.

The Foreign Secretary told Sky News that “the Prime Minister wanted to raise it [with Joe Biden] and be very clear on our position”, although stressed that in terms of the negotiations “the ball is very much in the EU’s court”.

He added: “We want it to work for all sides, but the change must come from the Commission’s side, and the way they are approaching this.

“We are not going to haggle over the integrity of the UK… that is not on the table for negotiating.”

The UK is being “pragmatic” and “there is a strong well of good will” from which to negotiate, he added.

07:09 AM

Bilateral ‘incredibly warm’, despite Brexit, says Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab has said Joe Biden and Boris Johnson had “an incredibly warm bilateral meeting, which overran”, as he sought to downplay suggestions the pair are butting heads over Brexit.

The issue did come up, the former Foreign Secretary said, “but the Prime Minister didn’t linger on it”.

Climate change, vaccines and girls’ education “were the things that dominated”, he told Sky News.

07:07 AM

G7 summit: Baby Wilfred Johnson joins in the fun

On a short stretch of Cornish coast on Thursday, Boris Johnson and Joe Biden strode out for the benefit of a press photographer at the beginning of what appeared to be a beautiful friendship.

“It’s fantastic, it’s a breath of fresh air,” declared Mr Johnson of the US president. Mr Biden surveyed the view, stretching out into the English Channel. “It’s gorgeous. I don’t want to go home,” said the most powerful man in the world.

Between them walked their glamorous wives: Jill Biden, 70, who has been married to Joe for 44 years, and Carrie Johnson, 33, who has been wed to Boris for 12 days.

While the pair went for their first bilateral meeting, their wives meandered down to the beach for their own “special relationship” time together. Mrs Johnson brought along little Wilfred Johnson, born a year ago, but never seen before on an official engagement.

Carrie Johnson and Dr Jill Biden with Wilfred - Anadolu

Carrie Johnson and Dr Jill Biden with Wilfred – Anadolu

07:01 AM

‘Virus hasn’t gone away’, warns minister amid roadmap fears

The vaccines minister has given nothing away about whether the final stage of the roadmap will go ahead as planned – amid reports it could be pushed back by up to a month.

Nadhim Zahawi stressed the importance of being “really careful” when asked about the possibility of a delay to the June 21 lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England.

“There has been some really hard won battles against this virus and we don’t want to squander those hard fought gains that we have made through the vaccination programme,” he told Times Radio Breakfast.

“In saying that, the virus hasn’t gone away, the virus will continue to attempt to mutate, to escape, to try and survive, and I think it’s really important that we are really careful.”

06:58 AM

EU taking ‘excessively burdensome’ approach to Brexit, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has suggested the European Union is taking an “excessively burdensome” approach to post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland.

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 agreed by the Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson, who will hold talks with EU leaders over the course of the G7 summit, told the BBC: “You will understand that there are ways of enforcing the protocol, ways of making it work, that may be excessively burdensome.

“I just give you one statistic: 20 per cent of the checks conducted across the whole of the perimeter of the EU are now done in Northern Ireland, three times as many as happen in Rotterdam.”

The new post-Brexit arrangements came into effect on January 1 and the dispute is still simmering, but Mr Johnson insisted “I think we can sort it out”.

06:35 AM

Biden ‘a breath of fresh air’, says PM as Brexit tensions pushed to background

Boris Johnson praised Joe Biden’s administration as a “breath of fresh air” on Thursday as the pair put on a display of unity despite Brexit tensions in their first face-to-face meeting.

Despite speculation the US president was preparing to dress down his counterpart over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the leaders traded public compliments rather than veiled threats.

Their meeting in Cornwall, where the G7 summit of world leaders formally begins on Friday, lasted an hour and 20 minutes – longer than planned, according to Downing Street.

Mr Biden called their talks “very productive” and spoke of a “good first full day” in the UK, while Mr Johnson called their discussions “great” and “fantastic”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *