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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 8 March 2021

The 35-minute phone call that revitalised the UK-US alliance

‘Moment of hope’ as Joe Biden and Boris Johnson pave way to galvanise transatlantic relationship

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to US President Joe Biden from London after his inauguration. Reuters
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to US President Joe Biden from London after his inauguration. Reuters

Boris Johnson on Saturday became the first European leader to speak to US President Joe Biden, consigning Donald Trump’s tenure to the past to cement Britain’s transatlantic alliance once again.

Despite irritation among some US Democrats over the British prime minister’s tolerance of Mr Trump’s excesses and ill-judged remarks on Barack Obama's heritage, it appears Washington has forgiven Mr Johnson.

Distancing himself from the previous president, Mr Johnson told Mr Biden that his election victory in November was “a moment of hope in a dark time”.

It is understood that the prime minister was referring to the pandemic, as well as the turmoil in America over Mr Trump’s unfounded accusation that the presidential election was “stolen” and the subsequent storming of the US Capitol on January 6.

During the call, Mr Johnson welcomed Mr Biden’s announcement that America would rejoin the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organisation.

Downing Street was quick to emphasise the shared policy objectives between the two leaders, on climate change in particular, and officials released a picture of Mr Johnson with his thumb raised, laughing during the conversation that he said was “warm and friendly”.

Whitehall insiders are said to be delighted that Mr Biden made the call to the prime minister ahead of other world leaders, suggesting that the president wishes to remain close to what is traditionally one of America’s closest allies.

The pair discussed “a very wide range of subjects” and Mr Johnson welcomed the “fantastic initial announcements from the Biden administration and moment of hope in a dark time”, government sources said.

A significant fillip for Mr Johnson will be sealing a trade deal with the US in the post-Brexit era, an issue the pair discussed during the 35-minute phone call.

“Great to speak to President @JoeBiden this evening. I look forward to deepening the longstanding alliance between our two countries as we drive a green and sustainable recovery from Covid-19,” Mr Johnson tweeted.

In response, the White House said Mr Biden had signalled his intention to “strengthen the special relationship between our countries and revitalise transatlantic ties”. He emphasised the critical role of Nato, in a further distancing from Mr Trump who was highly circumspect and critical of the alliance.

“President Biden also noted the importance of co-operation, including through multilateral organisations, on shared challenges such as combating climate change, containing Covid-19 and ensuring global health security,” the White House statement said. “He noted his readiness to work closely with Prime Minister Johnson as the United Kingdom hosts the G7 and United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this year.

“The leaders also discussed the need for co-ordination on shared foreign policy priorities, including China, Iran and Russia.”

The prime minister will receive a further boost in June with Mr Biden likely to make his first presidential trip overseas to the G7 summit of world leaders in Cornwall, south-west England.

Emphasising the common views held by the two leaders, a Downing Street statement said: “They noted the significant challenges facing the world during the pandemic, but also the unparalleled opportunities to build back better and greener together. The prime minister praised President Biden’s early action on tackling climate change and commitment to reach net zero by 2050.”

With Mr Trump facing an impeachment trial for incitement to insurrection next month following the Capitol incident, the statement said that both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to “protecting democracy.”

Updated: January 26, 2021 12:17 PM

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