This afternoon, on the eve of the G7 Summit in Cornwall, President Biden meets UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in person for the first time since taking the US-hot seat. While issues such as climate change and post-pandemic recovery are set to dominate the next few days, today’s crunch talks are increasingly important after last night US officials hinted at a formal demarche over the UK’s growing tensions with the EU over border checks in Northern Ireland.
The demarche, usually reserved for recalcitrant adversaries rather than close allies, accused the UK of proposing a risk to the Good Friday Agreement after talks earlier in the day between Brexit minister Lord Frost and the European Commission’s Maroš Šefčovič ended without an agreement. The disagreement centres around the upcoming ban on exporting chilled meats from Great Britain to Ireland, outlined by Vincent Carroll-Battaglino in yesterday’s newsletter.
President Biden’s interest in Ireland given his ancestral roots is no secret. Speaking on his behalf, US Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the success or failure of the Northern Ireland Protocol was “critical to ensuring that the spirit, promise and future of the Good Friday Agreement is protected”.
The UK government will be hoping that the coverage of the bilateral meeting is not further overshadowed by the US intervention on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
One way they hope to achieve this will be by signing a new “Atlantic Charter” designed to echo Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill’s in 1941 which sets out their shared international ambitions of promoting democracy and freedom. The charter will also pledge to fight climate change and focus on the recovery from the Covid pandemic, as well as establish a new tech deal aimed at lowering barriers faced by British firms in the US.
Despite Government sources saying Whitehall “welcomed the balanced tone from the US” around the issue in Northern Ireland, it is yet to be seen if Biden will choose to offer his support to the EU leaders present at the G7 Summit. Ahead of today’s meeting, the President tweeted his excitement to affirm “the special relationship between the US and UK”, but questions still lie around whether this is the return of close ties between Downing Street and the White House, or the beginning of another fractious transatlantic relationship engulfed by UK-EU relations.