Boris Johnson defends Joe Biden's handling of Afghanistan
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The USA overturned its 18-month travel ban on UK and EU travellers this week in a move that appeared to surprise British Ministers. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had little hope head-to-head trade talks would be resolved this week with the UK leader admitting his American counterpart has “a lot of fish to fry”. It has however been a long time since the era of Donald Trump promising a quick-fire pact with Mr Johnson – which could well prompt Joe Biden to blindside the UK leader in crunch talks today.
Boris Johnson and Joe Biden will sit down today in the wake of the successive Aukus deal with these two nations and Australia.
The UK leader is hoping to use the momentum created from the submarine deal to strengthen ties as well as seek resolutions on the Afghanistan humanitarian crisis and French anger at the Aukus agreement.
Another key topic many expected to be high on the agenda was a potential free trade agreement between the UK and USA.
New International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan held talks with US trade representative Katharine Tai yesterday, during which the FTA was discussed.
During the meeting with the new minister Ms Tai set out the conditions for a deal and stressed the importance of protecting the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Biden has often spoken of his commitment and interest in Northern Ireland – and therefore this explains his interest in protecting that agreement.
The UK wants to rework the agreement as its current state has led to trade barriers for goods and services crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain.
Ms Tai implied a FTA between the USA and UK would be impossible if Britain put peace in Northern Ireland at risk.
However, those hoping trade talks would see significant progress during President Biden and Mr Johnson’s meeting are to be sorely disappointed.
The UK PM told reporters he believed the US leader has too many fires to fight right now to tackle the FTA as well.
Mr Johnson told reporters: “On the FTA the reality is that Joe has a lot of fish to fry.
“He’s got a huge infrastructure package, he’s got a build back better package.
“We want to do it, but what we want is a good FTA, a great FTA.
“I would much rather get a deal that really works for the UK than get a quick deal.”
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Political commentators have expressed concerns about Mr Biden potentially blindsiding Mr Johnson after the US shocked the UK with the travel announcement on Monday.
The reversal of the travel ban surprised the UK and therefore indicated a heads up had not been given to Britain.
Mr Biden seemed not to have told Mr Johnson in advance that Washington was planning to lift its Covid travel plan on UK and EU fully vaccinated passengers.
Ahead of the announcement, Mr Johnson downplayed any expectations he could “crack” the issue during his White House visit.
Mr Johnson said: “I don’t think we’re necessarily going to crack it this week.
“I’ve got to warn you I don’t think this is going to be necessarily fixed this week.”
Tensions have also mounted between the US and UK world leaders in recent weeks over the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Despite speculation about tensions, Mr Johnson has this week insisted relations between Washington and London are on good terms.
Mr Johnson said the relations the two share “are about as good as they have been at any time in decades.”
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