Sunak visits Biden at the White House for the first time

During the Prime Minister’s first visit to the White House, US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak invoked the transatlantic partnership between the two countries. In addition to deeper economic cooperation and ongoing support for Ukraine, the US and Great Britain also want to go in step with the regulation of artificial intelligence. “There is no country closer to us than Great Britain today,” said Biden at the joint press conference.

Washington and London are determined to build resilient, diversified and secure supply chains together and reduce strategic dependencies, the White House said after the Biden-Sunak meeting. They want to take on a leadership role in “future technologies” and ensure “that new technologies work for our democracies and our security and not against them.” In addition, it is about “further strengthening our alliance in the areas of defence, health security and space”.

Sunak: “Economic relations have never been stronger”

“Countries like China and Russia are willing to manipulate and exploit our openness, steal our intellectual property, use technology for authoritarian purposes or deprive important resources like energy,” Sunak said. But they won’t be able to do that. Sunak spoke of an economic partnership with the United States “for a new era that has never existed before.” When asked that the cooperation fell far short of the free trade agreement desired by London, the prime minister replied: “Joe and I had already discussed that earlier: the economic ties between our two countries have never been stronger.”

Biden stressed his belief in London for leadership in regulating artificial intelligence. There is “no country in which we have more confidence” to master the challenges, said the US President. In view of the rapid development in the field, Great Britain is planning an international summit, which Sunak also discussed at the meeting with Biden. In the White House, Sunak spoke of “guard rails” with which the powerful technology – which in many fields could bring great advantages as well as great damage – had to be kept in check.

On the subject of military support for Ukraine in the defensive struggle against Russia, both heads of government reaffirmed their long-term support for Kiev. Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin believes the alliance is getting tired and giving up, said Sunak. “But that’s not the case (…) We’re not going anywhere.” They will be there for Ukraine as long as it is necessary. Biden said it was also looking to long-term support to “deter future aggression.”

Biden emphasizes Brexit rules

The meeting in the White House was the fourth between the US President and the British in four months. The British government was keen to emphasize this fact as a sign of traditionally close ties across the Atlantic. It is still clear how Biden, during his recent visit to Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, fobbed off the British Prime Minister with just a brief bilateral meeting in a hotel bar, before spending days in Ireland celebrating his descent from the Emerald Isle. British media were irritated.

The US Democrat, who is almost twice as old as the conservative Briton, later said that with his trip he wanted to make it clear to the British that they had to stick to the laboriously reached agreement with Brussels on the Brexit rules for Northern Ireland. One reason for Biden’s skepticism is Britain’s exit from the EU. Unlike his predecessor, Donald Trump, who promised Britain a swift major post-Brexit trade deal, Biden has never been a fan of Britain leaving the EU.

In the meantime, however, relations are said to have improved, diplomats said before the visit. This is mainly due to the great British commitment to Ukraine. Time and time again, Sunak has pushed forward with supplies of weapons, be it main battle tanks, longer-range cruise missiles or the establishment of a “fighter jet coalition”. After their meeting, however, Biden and Sunak did not talk publicly about more detailed plans for a possible delivery of American-design F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Jean Harris

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