Thursday 10 June 2021 7:20 pm

G7 2021: Boris Johnson says Joe Biden is 'breath of fresh air' after first meeting

Boris Johnson has called his first in-person meeting with US President Joe Biden a “breath of fresh air”, after an extended bilateral in the lead-up to the G7 summit.

Johnson and Biden had their first meeting in Cornwall today ahead of the three-day summit, with the pair agreeing to a new Atlantic Charter and a new pact to work together to prevent future pandemics.

“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,” Johnson said.

“It’s fantastic, it’s a breath of fresh air.”

Johnson sought to play down reports from The Times today that a senior US diplomat in the UK delivered an official rebuke to UK-EU relations minister Lord David Frost over his conduct in negotiations with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

It was revealed Yael Lempert recently handed Frost a demarche – an official diplomatic rebuke – for “inflaming tensions” with the EU over the future of checks on goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

When asked if Biden said he was alarmed about the growing escalation of tensions, Johnson said: “No, he didn’t.

“But what I can say is that America, the UK plus the European Union have one thing we absolutely all want to do and that is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and make sure we keep the balance of the peace process going.”

Biden said this evening that “we affirmed the special relationship between our people and renewed out commitment to the democratic values we share”.

Today’s meeting saw the two nations sign a renewed Atlantic Charter, which is based on the 1941 pact signed by Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt that set-out the countries’ post-war ambitions.

Number 10 said the new agreement will see both sides pledge to “apply our combined strength to the enormous challenges facing the planet today”, such as climate change, global defence and the post-Covid economic recovery.

Biden said the new charter will cover the “key challenges of this century – cyber security, emerging technologies, global health and climate change”.

Johnson and Biden also announced a new partnership between the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to enhance “disease surveillance, as well as genomic and variant sequencing capacity worldwide” to stop future pandemics.

The pair also agreed to push forward with plans to reopen travel between the UK and US, while speaking about ways to beef up global climate change efforts, distributing vaccines to poorer countries, a UK-US trade deal and ongoing post-Brexit negotiations about Northern Ireland.

Biden publicly confirmed the US’ new commitment to provide 500m vaccines to “low and lower middle income countries”.

“This is a monumental commitment by the American people,” he said.

“We’re a nation full of people who step up at times of need to help our fellow human beings at home and abroad. We’re not perfect, but we step up.”

A senior White House official told reporters today that “it makes all the sense in the world for the President’s first trip overseas to be to the United Kingdom and for his first foreign leader meeting abroad to be with Prime Minister Johnson because the US and the UK share a special relationship that is the foundational aspect of US foreign policy”.