British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rode the rails ahead of his first visit to the White House Tuesday, climbing aboard an Amtrak train at Penn Station for the trip to Washington, DC.
A mask-wearing Johnson, accompanied by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and their aides, arrived at Union Station early in the afternoon ahead of the prime minister’s scheduled meeting with President Biden in the Oval Office.
Johnson was greeted at the White House by Vice President Kamala Harris, who highlighted the “long and enduring” relationship between the US and the UK. Johnson responded by praising “the brave work of the US military” during the evacuation of Afghanistan, as well as the federal government’s decision last year to lift what the prime minister called “your curious ban” on importing British beef.
Johnson and Biden were both in New York for the scaled-back opening of the United Nations General Assembly, but did not meet face-to-face. Instead, Biden sat down with United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and Australian PM Scott Morrison, while Johnson met with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, South Korean President Moon Jae In and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Tuesday’s meeting between the two leaders is the first since the completion of the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and comes against the backdrop of a diplomatic row with France over a new Indo-Pacific strategic alliance between America, the UK, and Australia.
As part of the alliance, dubbed AUKUS, Washington and London agreed to supply nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, which scrapped an earlier agreement to buy diesel-powered subs from a French company. The infuriated French government recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia on Friday, one day after Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the agreement as a “stab in the back.”
Biden is scheduled to speak with French President Emmanuel Macron in the coming days to attempt to smooth the matter over, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that a date for the call had not yet been set.
On Tuesday morning, Johnson praised Biden as “a breath of fresh air” in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show.
“There are some things on which we can really, really work together,” said Johnson, who specifically cited climate change as one of those issues.
“He’s great on that, and he wants to cut [carbon dioxide] emissions, he wants to get to net-zero by 2050, and he shares with me a basic view that you can do this without penalizing the economy,” the prime minister said.
Johnson added that “it is the job of any prime minister of the UK to have a good relationship with the president of the United States. The US-UK relationship, we are doomed, we are fated to get along … That applies to Donald Trump, it applies to Joe Biden.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a query from The Post about whether Johnson was offered a lift on Air Force One, which carried Biden back to the nation’s capital Tuesday afternoon.