Boris Johnson ditches ‘special relationship’ tag for UK-US bond

But Joe Biden says his visit to UK this week will ‘affirm the special relationship’ between two longtime allies

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 07 June 2021 18:25 BST
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Joe Biden and Boris Johnson
Joe Biden and Boris Johnson (PA)

Boris Johnson has ditched the term “special relationship” to describe the UK’s partnership with the USA, Downing Street has confirmed.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson did not dispute a report in The Atlantic magazine which suggested Mr Johnson told president Joe Biden that he felt the term made Britain seem “needy and weak”.

But this did not stop Mr Biden saying in an article for The Washington Post that he would use his trip to the UK this week to “affirm the special relationship between our nations”.

Mr Johnson and Mr Biden are due to meet in Cornwall on Thursday for their first face-to-face talks, ahead of the three-day G7 summit in coastal resort Carbis Bay the following day.

Prime ministers dating back to Winston Churchill have referred to the relationship between London and Washington as “special”, reflecting Britain’s close defence and economic ties with the US and its status as a trusted partner in intelligence sharing, as well as the many historical and family ties uniting the two allies.

The focus on whether successive US presidents will reciprocate has sometimes reached near-neurotic levels, particularly during the “pivot to Asia” of Barack Obama’s time in office.

But Mr Johnson’s spokesman told reporters that the current prime minister does not lay great store by the term.

“The prime minister is on the record previously saying he prefers not to use it as a phrase,” said the spokesperson.

“That in no way detract from the importance with which he regards our relationship with the US, our closest ally.”

The White House has announced that Mr Biden will meet Mr Johnson on Thursday ahead of the G7 gathering, chaired this year by the UK. Downing Street is yet to confirm details of the meeting.

Writing ahead of the trip, the president said: “In the United Kingdom, after meeting with prime minister Boris Johnson to affirm the special relationship between our nations, I will participate in the G7 summit.

“This group of leading democracies and economies has not met in person in two years due to the coronavirus. Ending this pandemic, improving health security for all nations and driving a robust, inclusive global economic recovery will be our top priorities.”

On Sunday, Mr Biden will become the 13th serving US president to meet Queen Elizabeth II, who will receive him at Windsor Castle.

He then travels to Brussels for a Nato summit and discussions with EU leaders before he meets Russian president Vladimir Putin in Geneva on 16 June.

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