Biden, Johnson seek to sign ‘new Atlantic Charter’

The two leaders inspected documents related to the Atlantic Charter

President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met for the first time on Thursday, looking to highlight their nations’ famed “special relationship” but doing so against a backdrop of differences both political and personal.

At their first meeting in the seaside resort of Carbis Bay, the two leaders inspected documents on Thursday related to the Atlantic Charter, a declaration signed by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in August 1941, setting out common goals for the world after Second World War. Those goals included freer trade, disarmament and the right to self-determination of all people. It is often cited as a cornerstone of the trans-Atlantic “special relationship.”

Mr. Johnson noted that the charter laid the foundation for the United Nations and NATO. “Yeah, I know,” Mr. Biden said.

Finding common ground

At their meeting, the two leaders plan to sign what they’re calling a new Atlantic Charter, pledging to “defend the principles, values, and institutions of democracy and open societies.”

Mr. Biden hopes to use his first overseas trip as President to reassure European allies that the U.S. had shed the transactional tendencies of Donald Trump’s term and is a reliable partner again. But tensions could simmer beneath the surface of Mr. Biden’s meeting with Mr. Johnson.

The President staunchly opposed the Brexit movement, the British exodus from the European Union that Mr. Johnson championed, and has expressed great concern with the future of Northern Ireland. And Mr. Biden once called the British leader a “physical and emotional clone” of Mr. Trump.

The British government has worked hard to overcome that impression, stressing Mr. Johnson’s common ground with Mr. Biden on issues such as climate change and his support for global institutions. But Mr. Johnson, the host for the G-7 summit that will follow his sit-down with Mr. Biden, has been frustrated by the lack of a new trade deal with the U.S.

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