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US and UK Relations as the G7 Cornwall Summit Begins

Tristen Naylor, G7 Research Group, and Alexandre El Ghaoui, London Politica
June 11, 2021

US president Joe Biden and UK prime minister Boris Johnson met on June 10 on the eve of the G7 Cornwall Summit for their first bilateral meeting since Biden was elected president. The two leaders signed a revitalized Atlantic Charter outlining eight commitments related to defending their "special relationship" against "old and new challenges," ranging from international law to cyber threats, and launched a task force responsible for policy recommendations on reopening US-UK travel. The meeting was overshadowed by reports that Yael Lempert, US chargé d'affaires to the UK, relayed President Biden's "great concerns" to Brexit minister Lord Frost that the UK was "inflaming" tensions in Northern Ireland due to its rigid position in worsening trade negotiations with Brussels. These statements echo US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan's stern warning that "any steps that imperil or undermine the Good Friday Agreement will not be welcomed by the U.S." Biden was expected to urge Johnson at their meeting to find a suitable solution to the trade negotiations and to stress the importance of upholding the peace in Northern Ireland. After their 90-minute conversation, tensions were downplayed by both leaders as Biden reaffirmed the special relationship between their two countries. Johnson stated that "one thing we all absolutely want to do and that is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and make sure that we keep the balance of the peace process going. That's absolutely common ground, and I'm absolutely optimistic that we can do that."

It remains to be seen whether London and Brussels will come to an agreement in their latest Brexit trade negotiations. The United States has made its position on the negotiations related to the Good Friday Agreement clear. Given the importance Prime Minister Johnson places on signing free trade agreements as part of his "Global Britain" campaign, he will not risk irritating the Biden administration as he seeks a new free trade agreement with Washington. Having signed a new Atlantic Charter with his American counterpart, Prime Minister Johnson has showcased his commitment to what he believes is a sacrosanct relationship. It is unlikely that he will let the UK's insistence that it should not comply with EU trade protocols interfere with the transatlantic relationship.

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