WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed a new Atlantic Charter on Thursday, modeled on the 1941 Agreement 1941, which outlines eight key areas in which the US and UK plan to work together.
The revised charter presented during Biden’s first trip abroad as President builds on “the commitments and aspirations made eighty years ago and reaffirms our ongoing commitment to upholding our enduring values and defending them against challenges new and old”.
These commitments include defending democracy, reaffirming the importance of collective security and ensuring a fair and open global trading system, the document says.
Biden and Johnson agreed on the revised agreement with other heads of state and government on Thursday ahead of the G-7 summit, which begins Friday, at a bilateral meeting on Thursday in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, in south-west England.
Speaking to reporters from St. Ives that followed, Biden said he had a “very productive meeting” with Johnson and said they discussed “ambitious” goals on climate change. The president added that they spoke of “joint casualties” by military personnel from both countries in Afghanistan.
The charter pledges to address the modern challenges of cyber threats and climate change and to end the pandemic. As a result of the agreement, Biden and Johnson will work to resume travel between the US and the UK as soon as possible. They plan to set up a new travel task force that will make recommendations on how to reopen international travel safely.
“Many people in the UK and US have been banned from seeing family and friends for more than 400 days due to coronavirus travel restrictions,” said Johnson’s office. “The Task Force will work to identify options for UK and US travel resumption and ensure that UK and US closely share thoughts and expertise on future international travel policy.”
In order to end the pandemic worldwide, the two heads of state and government are expected to agree to work together on genome sequencing and screening for Covid-19 variants.
They also agreed on a new plan to be signed next year that will help overcome obstacles UK tech companies face when working with US counterparts.
The Atlantic Charter was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941 and outlined their goals for the period after World War II. Johnson’s office described it as “one of the greatest triumphs of Britain-US relations and has contributed more than any other agreement to the shaping of the world order that led directly to the creation of the United Nations and NATO”.
On Thursday, First Lady Jill Biden met Johnson and his wife Carrie, wearing a dark jacket with “LOVE” embroidered on their upper back. She said she and Biden would bring “love” from America. The statement was in contrast to the then First Lady Melania Trump’s choice of a green jacket that said, “I really don’t care, don’t I?” on a 2018 trip to a border town with Texas to visit migrant children in temporary shelters.
Tensions over the effects of Brexit
But as the two leaders attempt to evoke a spirit of historical unity on Thursday, there have been signs of early tension.
Their joint announcement was somewhat overshadowed in the UK after the Biden administration warned Johnson not to let Brexit threaten peace in Northern Ireland.
The British Prime Minister was the chief architect of his country’s exit from the European Union, which Biden has always refused. The Irish-born president is among those who fear Brexit will spark sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland.
The decades-long conflict between mostly Catholic “nationalists” – who want Northern Ireland to reunite with the Irish Republic – and mostly Protestant “unionists” – who want the area to remain part of the UK – were brought about by a peace agreement called Good Friday in 1998 reassured approval.
Brexit weighed on this agreement because it changes complex trade rules and threatens to overturn the delicate agreement between the province’s two rival municipalities.
“President Biden has made crystal clear his firm belief in the Good Friday Agreement as the basis for peaceful coexistence in Northern Ireland,” Sullivan told Air Force One reporters. “Any move that would jeopardize or undermine it would not be welcomed by the United States.”
And while the Atlantic Charter is the latest chapter in the “special relationship” between Washington and London, the UK government said this week that Johnson does not like the term. An adviser told The Atlantic on a profile on Johnson that the Prime Minister thought the sentence was needy.
The Associated Press contributed.