Boris Johnson first European leader to get call from President Biden

Boris Johnson first European leader to get call from President Biden

Christopher Hope

·4-min read
 
Boris Johnson on the phone - Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street
Boris Johnson on the phone – Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street

Boris Johnson told Joe Biden his arrival in the White House was a “moment of hope in a dark time” as he became the first leader outside North America to speak to the US President.

The Prime Minister is believed to be the third world leader to speak to Mr Biden after his scheduled call was brought forward by two days in what will be seen as a major boost for the special relationship between the UK and US.

Mr Johnson spoke to Mr Biden in a 35 minute phone call from his office at 10 Downing Street. The pair discussed “a very wide range of subjects”, sources said, describing the conversation as “very warm, friendly and wide ranging with agreement on key issues”.

One source said Mr Johnson welcomed the “fantastic initial announcements from the Biden administration and ‘moment of hope’ in a dark time”.

Announcing the phone call on Twitter, Mr Johnson said it was “great to speak to President Joe Biden”.

A Downing Street spokesman said that the pair “also discussed the benefits of a potential free trade deal between our two countries, and the Prime Minister reiterated his intention to resolve existing trade issues as soon as possible”.

On Saturday night sources in Berlin and Paris confirmed that neither German Chancellor Angela Merkel nor French President Emmanuel Emmanuel Macron had spoken with Mr Biden since Wednesday’s inauguration.

Mr Biden had been expected to start phoning allies across the Atlantic on Monday and the call will be seen as a major post-Brexit boost for Britain and a sign the US president wants to cement the special relationship.

The conversation came after it emerged Mr Biden had removed a bust of Sir Winston Churchill when selecting furnishings from the Oval Office.

British officials had downplayed the significance of this decision, as did the White House and the US embassy in London.

British officials told The Sunday Telegraph it was “likely” Mr Johnson was the first leader outside the Americas to receive a call.

Boris gives a thumbs up - Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street 
Boris gives a thumbs up – Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street

A readout from the White House said: “President Joseph R. Biden spoke today with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom.

“The President conveyed his intention to strengthen the special relationship between our countries and revitalise transatlantic ties, underscoring the critical role of Nato to our collective defence and shared values.

“President Biden also noted the importance of cooperation, including through multilateral organisations, on shared challenges such as combating climate change, containing Covid-19, and ensuring global health security.

“He noted his readiness to work closely with Prime Minister Johnson as the United Kingdom hosts the G-7 and United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this year.

“The leaders also discussed the need for coordination on shared foreign policy priorities, including China, Iran, and Russia.”

Boris Johnson speaks to Joe Biden  - Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street 
Boris Johnson speaks to Joe Biden – Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street

A Downing Street spokesman said that the pair “also discussed the benefits of a potential free trade deal between our two countries, and the Prime Minister reiterated his intention to resolve existing trade issues as soon as possible”.

Mr Biden spoke to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday.

Mr Johnson has sought since the inauguration last week to extend the hand of friendship to the Democrat president after his victory over Donald Trump and said in November: “The US is our most important ally and I look forward to working closely together on our shared priorities from climate change to trade and security.”

The speed of the call to Mr Johnson is a significant improvement on when Donald Trump won the Presidential election in November 2016.

Then Theresa May, Mr Johnson’s predecessor in 10 Downing Street, was a lowly 11th on President Trump’s call list in 2016, behind the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Japan, India, Turkey, Israel, South Korea, Australia and Ireland.