British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday strove to bury differences with president-elect Joe Biden as he stressed the enduring UK-US alliance and a future partnership against climate change.
Johnson’s hostile comments in the past about the Democratic administration of the former vice president and Barack Obama have come back to bite him as Biden prepares to take office following his hard-fought victory over Donald Trump.
But the Conservative prime minister emphasised the bigger picture, as he downplayed discord now over post-Brexit plans for Northern Ireland, whose peace agreement is dear to Biden.
“The United States is our closest and most important ally. And that’s been the case under president after president, prime minister after prime minister. It won’t change,” Johnson said in a broadcast interview.
“And I look forward to working with president Biden and his team on a lot of crucial stuff for us in the weeks and months ahead: tackling climate change, trade, international security,” he said.
Johnson is set to get in touch with Biden “shortly, in due course,” according to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has also been stressing collaboration with the US on climate as well as security and intelligence.
The British premier highlighted common values with Biden on protecting democracy, free speech, human rights, free trade and international rules.
“All of these things are currently under threat. And you have the United States and Britain standing together, as they have done many times in the past, to protect those values.
“So I think there’s far more that unites us than divides us.”
In September, Biden warned Britain could forget hopes for a US trade deal after Brexit takes full effect on January 1, if Northern Ireland becomes a “casualty” of the European Union divorce.
Johnson said his government’s difficult trade talks with both the EU and the US were “two separate things”, and said “the broad outlines are pretty clear” for an agreement with Brussels.
Securing a transatlantic trade pact was never going to be “a complete pushover under any US” administration, he said, but stressed: “I think there’s a good chance we’ll do something.”
Johnson and Biden will have less difficulty on seeing eye to eye on climate change, after Trump denied the crisis and abandoned US support for the UN’s Paris Agreement on tackling global emissions.
The prime minister noted that next year, he will be presiding over both the G7 group of rich nations and the UN’s next global climate summit, COP 26.
“And I think now with president Biden in the White House in Washington, we have the real prospect of American global leadership in tackling climate change,” he said.