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Biden hails ‘rock-solid’ US-UK relationship at Downing Street talks with Sunak

Photo by Suzanne Plunkett/PA Wire

By Dominic McGrath, David Hughes and Harry Stedman, PA

 

Joe Biden hailed the “rock-solid” relationship between the US and the UK as he met Rishi Sunak in Downing Street.

 

The US president praised the closeness of ties between the two countries as he and the Prime Minister held talks in the garden of No.10.

 

Mr Biden, whose short layover in London comes ahead of a crunch Nato summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, said the “relationship is rock solid”.

 

He said he “couldn’t be meeting with a closer friend and a greater ally”.

 

Mr Sunak said the pair would continue talks on how the UK and US can “strengthen our co-operation, our joint economic security, to the benefit of our citizens”.

 

Ahead of the Nato gathering, the Prime Minister said the US and UK “stand as two of the firmest allies in that alliance”.

 

Mr Biden ignored shouted questions from reporters, as the pair reflected on the sunny relationship between the two countries only weeks after Mr Sunak travelled to Washington.

 

The issue of support for Ukraine’s ambitions for Nato membership and the US decision to provide Kyiv with cluster munitions are signs that Westminster and Washington are not entirely on the same page, but both leaders emphasised the closeness of the transatlantic relationship.

 

His arrival just after 10.30am on Monday saw a heavy security presence in Whitehall, with the American leader due later at Windsor Castle for tea and talks on the climate crisis with the King.

 

The meeting, which lasted around 40 minutes, was also attended by US secretary of state Antony Blinken and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly as well as several senior national security advisers.

 

Making his first visit to No.10 as president, Mr Biden appeared relaxed as he sat side by side with the Prime Minister, who laughed when the president quipped about how frequently the two leaders meet.

 

It comes after the president defended the “difficult” decision to send cluster munitions to Kyiv.

 

Mr Sunak responded by saying Britain “discourages” their use as one of 123 signatories of a convention banning the bombs, but No.10 would not say whether he will raise the issue on Monday.

 

The Nato summit is also likely to see wrangling between allies over Ukraine’s path to membership of the alliance.

 

Though all attendees at the summit in Vilnius on Tuesday agree that Ukraine cannot join during the war, a move which would pull the wider West into direct conflict with Russia, the US is seen as most hesitant over its membership.

 

Mr Biden has described Kyiv’s bid as “premature”, telling CNN: “I don’t think it’s ready for membership in Nato.”

 

Britain, on the other hand, has indicated support for a fast-track approach for Ukraine.

 

Though it is not a full-blown state visit, Mr Biden will be treated to a display of pageantry at Windsor Castle.

 

He will receive a royal salute and hear the US national anthem courtesy of the Welsh Guards, before having tea with the King.

 

They will also meet attendees of a climate finance mobilisation forum, where finance and philanthropic leaders will have discussed the support they can offer to poorer nations.

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