‘Our closest ally’, UK PM Johnson voices confidence in US ties

London, November 8

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday said the US was an important ally of the UK and he looked forward to working closely with the new team at the White House on “shared priorities” from climate change to trade and security.

Johnson congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden and wished vice-president-elect Kamala Harris on her “historic achievement” in the bitterly-fought presidential election.

“The US is our important ally and I look forward to working closely together on our shared priorities, from climate change to trade and security,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Johnson, who was once fondly dubbed “Britain Trump” by President Donald Trump, congratulated Biden on his victory on Saturday, saying he looked forward to “working closely together on our shared priorities”.

But some say Johnson, a leading force in the campaign to leave the European Union, might struggle to forge a close bond with Biden, who has in the past cast doubt over Brexit and has never met the Prime Minister.

Johnson, his foreign minister Dominic Raab and other members of the governing Conservatives were keen to underline how much overlap there now was between the incoming US administration and that of the British government on shared interests.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Johnson’s second in command, said in his statement that outgoing President Trump had “fought hard” and that he was looking forward to working with the new administration.

“The UK-US friendship has always been a force for good in the world,” he said.

Raab went further by saying Biden would “have no greater ally, no more dependable friend than the United Kingdom”.

UK Opposition leaders also joined in the congratulatory fervour, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer praising Biden’s campaign of “decency, integrity, compassion and strength” and the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, saying the result was “a great victory for social justice, climate action and democracy”.

Former finance minister Sajid Javid predicted a much better chance of sealing a trade deal under the new administration rather than the “protectionist” Trump.

Britain is pursuing trade deals around the world after leaving the EU in January, to try to project Johnson’s vision of a “global Britain” but talks with the United States have slowed over the last few months.

Describing himself as a “keen student of the United States’ trade policy”, Johnson said he believed there was a good chance the two sides would “do something on trade” despite Washington being “tough negotiators”.

But it is Britain’s trade talks with the EU that might cast a shadow over the relationship between Johnson and Biden, after the US President-elect expressed concerns over whether Britain would uphold Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace agreement and said he had hoped for a “different outcome” from the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Leaders from other parts of the UK welcomed the result as a sign of great hope while the UK media widely focussed on Biden’s message of unity in his victory speech.

“It is understood the Prime Minister [Boris Johnson] will ask Biden to join him in seeking a bold outcome to the UN climate summit the UK is hosting next year and to set up a ‘D10 coalition of democracies’ at the G7 summit in June, which Johnson is to chair,” reported The Sunday Times.

Meanwhile, a report in ‘The Sunday Telegraph’ struck a note of caution that Biden would not prioritise the UK-US trade deal talks in the first 100 days of his presidency, according to a figure advising the new President-elect’s campaign on foreign policy.

The British government has repeatedly said it will uphold the Good Friday Agreement, which ended 30 years of violence in the British province of Northern Ireland, and on Sunday, Raab accused the EU of putting it in jeopardy.

US Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, told the BBC that he expected “some reconsideration of whatever comments may have been made about the moment of Brexit”.

“The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom has endured over the decades and I expect that there will be opportunities promptly for there to be some visits, some conversations.”

New laws on coronavirus relief, economic recovery, immigration reform, infrastructure improvements and tackling climate change would all be higher priorities.

“No one is going to want to test that out as the first piece of legislation,” the source was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

The UK has been hoping for a quick post-Brexit free trade agreement (FTA) with the US as a sign of vindication over its exit from the European Union (EU) allowing it to strike lucrative trade deals around the world.

A comment piece in the same newspaper looked into Harris’ big win, which it claims means “America is finally ready for a woman in the White House”.

The more Left-leaning media focussed more on the outgoing President’s exit, with the ‘Observer’ declaring that Biden’s win marks the end of “Trump’s war on democracy and truth”.

“Biden jogs on stage for victory speech as Trump slinks back from the golf course” declares ‘The Independent’ newspaper.

The tabloids went for the more humorous side of things, with ‘The Sun’ declaring: “Spit House: Trump ‘won’t attend Biden inauguration’ as White House staff seek to calm him” and ‘The Sunday Mirror’ leads with Kamala Harris’ history-making win. And Harris isn’t the only person who will make history when she takes on the job, and her husband Doug Emhoff will become America’s first-ever Second Gentleman,” it notes. PTI/Reuters

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