Johnson congratulates Biden and talks Brexit in first phone call with president-elect
Written by on 10 November 2020
Boris Johnson says he has spoken to president-elect Joe Biden and congratulated him on his election victory.
The prime minister said in a tweet: “I look forward to strengthening the partnership between our countries and to working with him on our shared priorities – from tackling climate change, to promoting democracy and building back better from the pandemic.”
The phone call, among the president elect’s first with world leaders, took place at around 4pm and lasted approximately 25 minutes.
In the wake of Mr Biden’s triumph over Donald Trump there have been suggestions, dismissed by ministers and Downing Street, that the relationship between Mr Johnson and Mr Biden will not be as close as the one the PM enjoyed with Mr Trump.
The current president has been a vocal supporter of both Mr Johnson and Brexit, while Mr Biden has been far more lukewarm.
The president-elect has been critical of the UK’s plans to override parts of the Brexit divorce agreement in relation to Northern Ireland if no trade deal is reached with the EU.
Mr Biden, who has Irish heritage, warned in the run-up to the US election about the Good Friday Agreement becoming a “casualty” of Brexit.
During the call, the PM and president-elect talked about the importance of implementing Brexit in such a way that upholds the Good Friday Agreement, with Mr Johnson assuring Mr Biden that would be the case.
The Internal Market Bill was not raised specifically.
Downing Street said in a statement that Mr Johnson had “warmly congratulated” Mr Biden on his victory and “also conveyed his congratulations to vice president-elect Kamala Harris on her historic achievement”.
Ms Harris is the first female vice president, as well as the first woman of African-American and South Asian-American descent to get the job.
A Number 10 spokesperson added: “They discussed the close and longstanding relationship between our countries and committed to building on this partnership in the years ahead, in areas such as trade and security – including through NATO.
“The prime minister and president-elect also looked forward to working closely together on their shared priorities, from tackling climate change, to promoting democracy, and building back better from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The prime minister invited the president-elect to attend the COP26 climate change summit that the UK is hosting in Glasgow next year.
Will Biden’s presidency affect Brexit talks?
“They also looked forward to seeing each other in person, including when the UK hosts the G7 Summit in 2021.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the president-elect said Mr Biden “offered his thanks to Prime Minister Johnson for his congratulations and expressed his desire to strengthen the special relationship and re-double cooperation on issues of mutual concern”.
They added that the president-elect “especially looks forward to working closely together on global challenges”, and that Mr Biden “reaffirmed his support for the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland”.
Speaking later at a news conference, the president-elect said his message to world leaders was that “America is back in the game”.
Mr Biden said the response from his calls so far has been “fulsome and energetic”.
PM’s enthusiasm for working with Biden
Former PM David Cameron has told Sky News that he thinks the pair will “get on very well”.
He said: “I think when it comes down to it, if you think of the big agendas – how do we fight terrorism, how do we combat climate change, how do we prevent future health pandemics, how do we tackle global poverty – there’s a huge amount of common ground between Boris Johnson and Joe Biden.
“So I would look through all the issues about who gets the first phone call and all the rest of it.
“When it comes to the substance I think it will be a very strong partnership.”
Ex-PM Cameron: UK-Biden partnership will be very strong
Irish PM Micheal Martin has also spoken to the president-elect.
In a message on his Twitter account, Mr Martin said he had a “warm and engaging call with Mr Biden, who “underlined his commitment to the Good Friday Agreement”.
The Irish government said in a statement: “The president-elect reaffirmed his full support for the Good Friday Agreement and they discussed the importance of a Brexit outcome that respects the GFA and ensures no return of a border on the island of Ireland.”
Mr Martin had earlier posted on Twitter about having a “very positive call” with the president-elect, despite the conversation having not yet taken place.
The message was quickly deleted.
The calls come after it was revealed that Mr Johnson’s initial message of congratulations to the president-elect retained traces of Mr Trump’s name.
On Saturday, the PM offered his congratulations to Mr Biden and Ms Harris in a message on his Twitter account.
However, it has since been spotted that altering the brightness and contrast of the graphic attached to the tweet reveals the outline of what appears to be a previous statement.
Above the word “Biden” the word “Trump” can be seen, while the outlines of other words can also be found.
A government spokesperson said: “As you’d expect, two statements were prepared in advance for the outcome of this closely-contested election.
“A technical error meant that parts of the alternative message were embedded in the background of the graphic.”
Mr Trump has still yet to concede defeat in the US presidential election and has repeatedly claimed to have “won” the election.
He has also made unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the election process.