BORIS Johnson says he has spoken to Joe Biden to congratulate the US president-elect in their first call since his victory over Donald Trump.
The Prime Minister and the Democrat spoke at 4pm today amid concerns the pair may not have a smooth relationship due to controversies surrounding Brexit. Biden had previously called Johnson a “Trump clone”.
But the call, which is understood to have lasted for around 25 minutes, put Johnson among the first world leaders to have secured a call with Biden since his triumph in the November 3 election.
No 10 said that during the call Johnson “warmly congratulated” Biden on his victory, which Republican Trump continues to contest with baseless allegations of fraud.
In a tweet, the Prime Minister added: “I look forward to strengthening the partnership between our countries and to working with him on our shared priorities – from tackling climate change, to promoting democracy and building back better from the pandemic.”
Downing Street said the Prime Minister discussed trade with Biden, as he seeks to negotiate a post-Brexit deal with Washington. And they were said to have discussed Nato, which Trump routinely railed against during his single-term as president, which continues into January.
A No 10 spokesman said the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic was another topic of discussion, with both men using the “build back better” slogan, and that Johnson invited Biden to the United Nations climate crisis summit being hosted by the UK in Glasgow in November next year.
And the Prime Minister was said to have sent his congratulations to Kamala Harris, who made history in becoming the first woman of colour to be elected vice-president.
A swift call with the incoming president is highly-coveted. His first was reported as being with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.
But it will be particularly highly-welcomed for Johnson amid concerns the pair could face diplomatic difficulties.
The pair have never met before, but Biden had likened the Prime Minister to a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump.
Unlike the Republican incumbent, Biden is a critic Brexit. He has warned that a trade deal with the US is “contingent” on there being no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland amid unease over Johnson’s controversial Brexit legislation.
The Democrat also warned that the peace process must not “become a casualty of Brexit” in a warning over the UK Internal Market Bill.
After Johnson announced his call, Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheal Martin said he too held a “warm and engaging call” with Biden, who proudly speaks of his Irish heritage.
Martin said that the president-elect “underlined his commitment” to the Good Friday Agreement. The official statement from the Irish government described a “a warm conversation” in which Biden “recalled his strong Irish roots and his visit to Ireland with his family in 2016.”
In a tweet, Martin said he had invited Biden and his wife Jill “to come back to Ireland when we will properly mark their success.
“He brings tremendous knowledge and understanding to his new role, and has a great love for his Irish heritage,” Martin added.
Allies of Biden, who was Barack Obama’s vice-president, have not forgiven Johnson for highlighting the first African American president’s “part-Kenyan” heritage, claiming it had given him an “ancestral dislike of the British empire”.
German chancellor Angela Merkel also secured a call from Biden yesterday.
The call with Johnson came after it emerged his earlier tweet congratulating Biden had the word “Trump” concealed in it. Downing Street said a “technical error” meant parts of an alternative congratulatory statement for the Republican were overlaid on the final graphic.