Remarks by President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson of UK ahead of bilateral meeting
5:05 p.m. EDT
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, it’s a pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Johnson to the White House, the Oval Office. I am honored to be fortunate enough to have him here.
He returned a small amount of hospitality compared to all the hospitality he gave to the G7 and our families and – to Cornwall. And since then, our countries have worked in close collaboration on a whole lot of things, and our fellow democracies.
We are continuing to work – we are going to talk about it today – on the ambitions that we set out at the G7. And we look to our revitalized Atlantic Charter. We’re going to make it something – we’re going to turn it into real action to make a ma- – play a major role in the challenges we face.
Earlier today, I addressed the United Nations General Assembly and made it clear that climate must be the central area of action for all of us and – as we prepare for COP26 in United Kingdom, which I really look forward to attending in Glasgow in November, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: Good. Fantastic.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: And we promote our –
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: We need you there. Yes.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Oh, we’ll be there.
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: Fantastic.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: With the bells, as they say.
And we are also going – our economies have to work together, including through our Build Back Better World initiative that we – that we have launched in Car – – in Carbis Bay.
And today we’re going to discuss the next steps – on all of this, and as well as how the US and UK can continue our cooperation in Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific, and around the world.
And I want to thank you again, Boris, for making the effort to be here.
And I understand, Boris – I just want you to know, Boris – you came to Amtrak, is that right?
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: Yes. And – and you are – you are a living deity –
PRESIDENT BIDEN: I am.
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: – on Amtrak, I can tell you.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: I have traveled millions of kilometers. You think I’m kidding.
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: They love you.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, they should. (Laughs.) I’ve traveled more on Amtrak than any other – if I was a conductor, I would be number one in terms of seniority. (To laugh.)
I have to tell you a quick story that has nothing to do with anything. When I was vice president, the Secret Service didn’t like me traveling on Amtrak because there were too many options for people to cause trouble along the way. But I insisted on doing it.
And one day they wrote in the diary, “Biden flies a million…” – and I think – don’t stand by the exact number – I think it was – “… three hundred and fifty thousand miles on Air Force Two. “
And – and so I walked to – to – to take the train that Friday. And a guy, who was number three in New Jersey as a conductor, walked up and grabbed me and he said, “Joey, baby! »- grab my cheek. I thought the Secret Service was going to shoot him. (Laughs.) And I said, “No, no. He’s a friend.”
He said, “Joey, this is a big deal. 1,300,000 miles on Amtrak ”- I mean, on Air Force Two. “Do you know how many miles you have driven on Amtrak? And I said no. He said, “Well, at the retirement dinner we solved the problem.” He said, “Thirty-six years in the Senate; “X” number of years as… ”- at this stage -“… as vice-president; averaging 131 days a year, 257 miles a day. Joey, you have driven over 2 million miles. Big deal. “(Laughs.)
I thought they should name the railroad after me or something. But anyway –
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: They gave the station your name.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes, they did.
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah – that’s big news out there.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Anyway.
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: Joe, I want to thank you. And I share your – your belief in transportation infrastructure, especially trains.
I would like to warmly thank you for the warm welcome today. And it’s great to be with you in the White House. And this is a very important trip for us in the UK, and we’ve seen great progress just over the last period.
And it’s great that the ban is lifted on British beef and the people of the United States of America can eat British beef.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: And we will also be working on the lamb.
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: And the lamb. We’re working on the – we’re working on the lamb.
But what you’ve done with the trip so that people can travel to the United States with two jabs is also fantastic and very welcome. We have been working on it for a long time.
But I think the most important thing today was your speech, Joe, at UNGA, where you pledged to help the world adapt to climate change, thus doubling the American commitment. Its very important for us.
And we made the £ 11.6 billion pledge that I made when I became Prime Minister. But it’s fantastic to see the United States really step up and show a lead – a real, real lead.
And then, of course, there’s the progress we’re making in the defense technology partnership that you have led and – with our Australian friends who I think has great potential to benefit the world and security. from all over the world.
So, Joe, thank you for having us. And I think, you know, that we – we strengthen our common agenda. We want to rebuild the world with you. And I think we want to renew and strengthen our transatlantic link. And I feel like it’s going very, very well.
But I think – would it be okay if we just had a few questions? Just a – just a few questions for the –
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Good luck.
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: And I think we’re going to be ruthless. (Laughs.) We’re going to be ruthless. I’m going to go to – I’m going to go to Harry Cole from The Sun.
Q Mr President –
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Hey, he – ask him. (Laughs.) No, I’m jo-
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: I’ll take it.
Q Mr President, is Britain still at the back of the pack for a trade deal – a free trade deal, as your predecessor, President Obama, promised?
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: Well, that’s actually (inaudible) a good question.
Q And can I just ask what is the possible justification for Anne Sacoolas not being extradited to the UK to face justice for Harry Dunn’s death?
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Two things: First, this last case is under development. I had the impression – but I don’t know, I want to be clear – I had the impression that a civil settlement had been made, but I do not know.
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: That’s right. It’s correct.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: And based on what I was told, it was – it wasn’t an intentional act. He was someone who was new to “driving on the side of the road” in quotes.
And – but we’re following – I’m going to follow that. I expressed my sympathies when this happened, but I do not know the status of this matter at this time.
The other question was?
Q A free trade agreement on Brexit with Great Britain. Is this –
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Brexit-linked free trade – well, we’re going to talk a bit about trade today, and we’ll have to fix it.
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: Let me say on that, Harry – I mean, don’t forget, friends, that we have – we settled the Boeing Airbus affair, which was a huge issue between us. So we’re making a lot of progress – not to mention beef and whiskey, which I’ve already – I’ve mentioned before.
And just to sort of say on –
PRESIDENT BIDEN: You smiled when you said “whiskey”. (To laugh.)
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: Well, he’s a – he’s a grade A ambassador to them.
Regarding the Harry Dunn affair, which is a very, very sad – very sad affair, and all sympathies go out to Harry Dunn’s family, I know the President has personally tried to get things done, and j ‘I’m grateful.
We’ll take – we’ll take another question. I’ll go to Beth.
Q Thank you. President Biden, President Trump has said the UK is leading the way when it comes to a trade deal. You seem to have a different approach. Is it because of your heritage, your concern about Irish protocol? Is that what holds him back when it comes to concluding this agreement with the United Kingdom?
PRESIDENT BIDEN: These are two separate issues. Regarding the agreement with the United Kingdom, this continues to be discussed. But when it comes to protocols, I am very attached to them.
We have spent a tremendous amount of time and effort in the United States. It was a major bipartisan effort made. And I – I wouldn’t like to see at all – nor, I might add, a lot of my fellow Republicans would like to see – a change in the Irish courts that – the end result having a closed border again.
PRIME MINISTER JOHNSON: That’s absolutely correct. And I – on that point, Joe, you know, we’re – we’re all in unison. And I don’t think anyone wants to see anything that disrupts or upsets the Belfast Good Friday Agreement – it’s the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.
Q What is your response to the situation at the border, Mr. President?
PRESIDENT BIDEN: (Inaudible) Violence is not justified.
5:15 p.m. EDT