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Biden and Johnson agree new 'Atlantic Charter'

By CUI CHAOQUN in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-06-11 07:28

Leaders discuss differences over Brexit and troubled Northern Ireland protocol 

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson and US President Joe Biden with first lady Jill Biden walk outside Carbis Bay Hotel, Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Britain June 10, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

The term "special relationship "has been used ever since Winston Churchill, Britain's former prime minister, coined it in the 1940s to describe the close Anglo-American connection of the day.

As Joe Biden, today's president of the United States, met with Boris Johnson, the UK's current prime minister, on Thursday ahead of the upcoming G7 summit, that "special relationship" was set to be put to test, with the nations attempting to bridge differences over Brexit and the troubled Northern Ireland protocol.

During their closed-door meeting, an agreement they dubbed the new Atlantic Charter was signed as a "symbolic reaffirmation" of ties between the nations, said a CNN report.

When the pleasantries ended, Biden was understood to talk to Johnson about the Northern Ireland protocol, which is aimed at avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland following the province leaving the EU along with the rest of the UK.The agreement has caused quarrels between London and Brussels ever since they signed it a few months ago.

Maros Sefcovic, vice-president of European Commission, has said the UK and EU have reached a "crossroads" amid the UK's continued failure to meet its obligations. He said the patience of the EU is now "wearing very, very thin".

Before he started his trip, Biden made it clear that he wants to see the Northern Ireland Protocol adhered to.

He also said, during his election campaign, that there will not be a trade deal between the US and the UK if London undermines the agreement.

According to The Times, Biden has ordered US officials to issue London with a demarche-a formal diplomatic rebuke that has rarely been used among the allies-for risking the peace process in Northern Ireland.

While Johnson may not like Washington interfering in British affairs, he said he was nevertheless "very optimistic" that the G7 will not be overshadowed while he attempts to muster support from the world's most advanced economies to jointly tackle challenges, including climate change and the vaccination program against the novel coronavirus.

Paul Rogers, a professor at Bradford University, said: "I think it's going to be very difficult for Johnson. Biden is very insistent that the agreement that has been signed with the European Union will be adhered to. He believes that this issue must be more central and it is probably the one single issue in which he will want to have direct discussions with Johnson."

Even if the UK and the US reach a consensus on the Northern Ireland protocol, they will continue to face challenges ahead, he added. "The US-UK relations are going to be rather more difficult for the next three years, while Biden is in power," said Rogers, noting that Johnson was more at ease with the Trump administration.

During his eight-day trip, Biden will meet the leaders of the other G7 members, attend a NATO summit, and a US-EU summit, before meeting the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. He is widely expected to use the trip to improve relations with Europe, which were badly damaged during the Trump years.

Biden has sent positive signals to the EU and to Germany by returning to multilateral organizations and treaties and by removing some sanctions related to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

But a revelation that Denmark helped the US national security agency spy on European leaders could spoil the mood.

Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies at Fudan University, said: "The EU's view of the US changed during the Trump administration. The days of total dependence on the US are long gone. The EU will not stop its pursuit of strategic autonomy and transatlantic relations won't return fully to the old days."

Chen Weihua in Brussels contributed to this story.

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