FFor Boris Johnson, his first conversation with Joe Biden in the White House ended with a mixed record. Promises by the American president on travel issues and climate protection were offset by dampers in trade policy and in the post-Brexit process. After all, Johnson made his visit to the American television station NBC to an unqualified success. He elicited the previously well-kept secret of how many children he had from the Prime Minister: There are six, Johnson confirmed for the first time – and added that he would also change the diapers of the youngest regularly.
The new trilateral defense pact (with Australia) hardly played a role in Biden’s and Johnson’s public appearance, but it is likely to have influenced the generally friendly atmosphere. After all, the meeting had been on the brink for a few weeks because the reaction in London to Biden’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan had been angry and also hurtful words. Johnson thanked his host for wanting to lift the pandemic-related entry ban for British (and EU citizens) and for doubling American funds for climate protection in developing countries. One of Johnson’s most important goals for the upcoming climate protection conference in Glasgow is to be able to provide the 100 billion dollars a year that was agreed in 2009 within the UN framework.
However, what Biden had to say before the talks about the free trade agreement sought by London was recorded as a setback. You will talk about it “a little” and still have to “work your way through”, said the President, which sounded neither like progress nor priority. Apparently, London is now considering improving access to the American market by at least acceding to the United States’ trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. However, experts do not see this as a great advantage, nor is it clear whether such an offer even exists.
Biden had already threatened during the election campaign to put the bilateral trade agreement on the back burner if the British did not adhere to the Northern Ireland protocol of the Brexit agreement. Diplomatically, he replied to a journalist’s question that these were “two different things”. Nevertheless, the situation in Northern Ireland is “very close to his heart”, if only because America has put an enormous amount of time and effort into the Good Friday Agreement. Before he could even carry out the thought, which threatened to lead to criticism of London’s handling of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Johnson interrupted him and said that he could not be at one with Biden. Nobody wants a development that endangers the peace agreement for Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, Environment Minister George Eustice gave tutoring in London. It is of course legitimate for Biden to have his point of view and also external, but the Northern Ireland Protocol is a “very complex treaty” and he is not sure whether Biden “fully understands all of it”. After all, Eustice tried to translate the trade regime for Northern Ireland agreed with the EU into an American translation. It is something like “as if potatoes grown in one part of the United States cannot be sold in another part of the United States”. If you were to explain this to the Americans in detail, they too would understand “that of course this does not make sense”.