Thursday, July 18, 2024

Joe Biden urges Keir Starmer to get ‘closer with Europe’

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By James Tapsfield, Political Editor For Mailonline

08:17 11 Jul 2024, updated 08:38 11 Jul 2024

Joe Biden has urged Britain to get ‘closer with Europe’ in his first face-to-face talks with Keir Starmer.

The US president described the UK as the ‘transatlantic knot’ binding the two continents as he met the new PM in the White House.

Sir Keir has vowed to renegotiate the Brexit deal, with concerns that he could make concessions such as paying into Brussels budgets – although he has insisted Britain will not rejoin the customs union or single market. 

Mr Biden has made great play of his Irish roots and -in contrast to his rival Donald Trump – was accused of taking the EU’s side during wrangling over the divorce.   

The meeting came as Sir Keir made his debut on the world stage by attending a Nato summit in Washington.

The premier said the visit was an opportunity to ‘recommit’ the military alliance and the ‘special relationship’.

The President said: ‘I kind of see you guys as the knot tying the transatlantic alliance together, the closer you are with Europe. We know where you are, you know where we are.’

Joe Biden described the UK as the ‘transatlantic knot’ binding the two continents as he met the new PM in the White House
The meeting came as Sir Keir made his debut on the world stage by attending a Nato summit in Washington
The two leaders were in the famous Oval Office in the White House last night

Sir Keir told the president: ‘The special relationship is so important. It’s forged in difficult circumstances, endured for so long, and stronger now than ever.

‘I’m very pleased to be able to come so early in government to recommit to Nato, to recommit to the special relationship and to discuss these affairs with you.’

Boris Johnson has been among those warning that Labour will water down the terms agreed with the EU.  

A UK Government spokesman said Mr Biden and Sir Keir ‘agreed we must continue to do whatever it takes to support Ukraine and ensure aggressors like Putin do not win’.

The spokesman added: ‘The President welcomed the Prime Minister’s recent comments on establishing closer relationships with our European counterparts, as well as the UK’s commitment to Aukus.’

The meeting came as Sir Keir prepared to urge Nato allies to support Ukraine for ‘as long as it takes’ as he confirmed the UK’s own £3 billion a year military aid for Kyiv will continue.

The PM, who met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in the margins of the Nato summit in Washington yesterday, will tell members of the alliance later that they need to send a ‘clear message’ to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The UK’s military support for Ukraine will continue until at least 2030/31 and for as long as it is needed.

At a special session on Ukraine at the Nato summit, Sir Keir will warn that the frontline defence of the Euro-Atlantic region is the Ukrainian trenches.

He will say: ‘Nato was founded by the generation who defeated fascism. They understood not just the value of our strength, but the strength of our values.

‘Those values are under attack once again. Putin needs to hear a clear message ringing out from this summit – a message of unity and determination, that we will support Ukraine with whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to uphold our shared values and our shared security.’

The Washington summit cemented Ukraine’s ‘irreversible’ progress towards Nato membership, with a joint statement by the allies.

NATO leaders posing for a family photo as the summit began yesterday

But because of Nato’s Article V, which commits to mutual defence, the allies will not allow Ukraine to join while it is still at war as that would trigger an immediate conflict with Russia.

Nato allies are stepping up commitments on Ukraine while they await the results of November’s US presidential election, where Donald Trump has threatened to reduce American support.

Concerns about Mr Biden’s plan to run for re-election were evident during his Oval Office meeting with Sir Keir.

The president did not directly respond to questions about George Clooney’s criticism, after the actor and prominent Democrat supporter suggested he should leave the race.

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