“Look, I don’t mind the phrase ‘special relationship’ because it is special. But you know, it encompasses a reality which is that the UK and the US have a real congruence of views on some stuff that really matters to the world. And so we believe very strongly in democracy, we believe in human rights, we believe in the rules-based international order, we believe in the transatlantic alliance,” Johnson said.
Asked what he would call the connection between the two countries, he said, “you can call it the ‘deep and meaningful relationship’, whatever you want, the ‘indestructible relationship’. It’s a relationship that has endured for a very long time, and has been an important part of peace and prosperity both in Europe and around the world.”
Johnson denied Biden had told him to resolve the standoff with the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol, instead reiterating the importance to both the UK and the US of the Good Friday/Belfast agreement.
It emerged as Biden arrived in the UK that senior US diplomats had warned the UK’s combative Brexit negotiator, David Frost, that his actions risked inflaming tensions in Northern Ireland.
Lord Frost will attend the G7 summit on Friday. Asked about the row with the EU, Johnson said repeatedly that the two sides would “sort it out”.
But the prime minister appeared to criticise the EU’s approach to implementing the protocol. “There are ways of enforcing the protocol, ways of making it work, that may be excessively burdensome,” he said. “I just give you one statistic: 20% of the checks conducted across the whole of the perimeter of the EU are now done in Northern Ireland, three times as many as happen in Rotterdam.”
Pressed on whether an agreement could be reached over the weekend, with EU chiefs and the French, German and Italian leaders present, he said the summit would be focused on other questions.
“No, no, no, no. We’re focusing here on a huge range of things that the G7 wants to look at. So we’re looking at the post-pandemic world, we’re looking at what we can do to make sure that we don’t have the world caught unprepared again, or the western world anyway, for a pandemic in the way that we were.”
After the meeting with Biden, the UK promised to continue working with the EU to find a solution – but is also not ruling out taking unilateral action. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said as he prepared to fly to Cornwall that “nothing is negotiable” about the protocol.
A ban on chilled meats including sausages and mincemeat being exported from Great Britain into Northern Ireland, which abides by EU agrifood rules, is due to come into force on 30 June.
Other G7 leaders will arrive in Cornwall on Friday, and they are due to discuss the recovery from the pandemic at the first formal session in the afternoon, before meeting the Queen at the Eden Project.