President Joe Biden on Thursday said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that he would step down as the UK’s head of government once Conservative Party members choose a successor will not put a damper on the close relationship between Washington and London.
In a statement to The Independent, Mr Biden did not mention Mr Johnson or his impending exit from Number 10 Downing Street, but said the US and UK remain “the closest of friends and Allies” and stressed that “the special relationship” between the American and British people “remains strong and enduring”.
“I look forward to continuing our close cooperation with the government of the United Kingdom, as well as our Allies and partners around the world, on a range of important priorities,” Mr Biden said. “That includes maintaining a strong and united approach to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Putin’s brutal war on their democracy, and holding Russia accountable for its actions”.
The outgoing British leader, who was born in the US but renounced his American citizenship years ago, has had a warm relationship with Mr Biden since the American president assumed office in January 2021.
At the 2021 Group of Seven summit in Cornwall — one of Mr Biden’s first trips abroad as president — Mr Johnson described his American counterpart as “a breath of fresh air” as the two men signed a “New Atlantic Charter” which “reaffirm[ed] their commitment to work together to realise our vision for a more peaceful and prosperous future” by building on the alliance cemented by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill more than eight decades prior. Mr Johnson has also praised Mr Biden’s willingness to tackle climate change as an existential threat to humanity during a September 2021 visit to the White House.
The two leaders have also worked closely together as they coordinated the west’s response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. They also caused a row when the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia announced last year that Australia would purchase nuclear-powered, conventionally-armed submarines made with American and British technology. The move so incensed French President Emanuel Macron that he temporarily recalled the nation’s ambassador to the United States.
But despite the friendly relations between the two leaders, White House officials have declined to weigh in on Mr Johnson’s political troubles, which they’ve characterised as an internal British matter that is out-of-bounds for public comment.
Asked whether the apparently instability atop the UK’s government was of concern for Biden administration officials during a press availability aboard Air Force One on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary said the administration would not be addressing the situation publicly.
“To be clear, we’re just not going to comment on another government’s democratic process. So we’re just not going to comment,” she said, adding that “our alliance, our partnership with the United Kingdom continues to be strong”.
Mr Biden’s reluctance to comment specifically on Mr Johnson’s exit from Number 10 stands in stark contrast to his predecessor, Donald Trump, who exhibited no qualms about meddling in British politics.
Mr Trump frequently made public remarks in praise of Mr Johnson while being simultaneously critical of his predecessor, Theresa May, particularly regarding her handling of the UK’s departure from the European Union.
In 2019 interview with The Sun ahead of a visit to the UK, Mr Trump said: “Boris would do a very good job. I think he would be excellent”.
At the time, Mr Johnson was Foreign Secretary and Ms May was fighting to come to terms on an exit plan with the EU and push legislation implementing the deal through Parliament.
Speaking of Ms May’s negotiating strategy, Mr Trump said he thought “the UK allowed the European Union to have all the cards,” and remarked that it was “very hard to play well when one side has all the advantage”.
“I had mentioned to Theresa that you have got to build up your ammunition. I am sure that you could have built up a big advantage for your side and negotiated from strength,” he added.