Boris Johnson 'told Joe Biden he hates the term Special Relationship'

Boris Johnson 'told Joe Biden he hates the term Special Relationship'

Boris Johnson ‘told Joe Biden he hates the term Special Relationship’ to describe close transatlantic alliance between the UK and US because it is too ‘needy’

  • PM made comment to new US president after he entered White House in January
  • Term was popularised by his political hero, Winston Churchill, in postwar speech
  • Boris also told US mag he was ‘self-evidently’ not a populist in the style of Trump 

Boris Johnson told Joe Biden that he hates the UK’s relationship with the US being branded the ‘special relationship’ because it makes Britain seem ‘needy’, it was revealed today.

The Prime Minister made the comment to the new US president in an early call after the Democrat was installed in the White House in January.

The claim came in a new profile of Mr Johnson in the US magazine the Atlantic, in which he says he is ‘self-evidently’ not a populist in the style of Donald Trump. 

He also declined to discuss Brexit for the piece, saying: ‘Do we have to talk about Brexit? We’ve sucked that lemon dry.’ 

Aides of the PM told the magazine he informed the president he disliked the phrase  ‘special relationship’, after Mr Biden used it in one of their first phone calls.

The claim may raise some eyebrows however, as the term was popularised by his political hero, Winston Churchill, in a postwar speech. 

Mr Biden also used it in an article this weekend, ahead of his arrival in Britain this week, where he will meet the Queen and attend the G7 heads of state meeting in Cornwall. 

The Prime Minister made the comment to the new US president in an early call after the Democrat was installed in the White House in January.

Aides of the PM told the magazine he informed the president he disliked the phrase ‘special relationship’, after Mr Biden used it in one of their first phone calls.

The admission may raise some eyebrows however, as the term was first used by his political hero, Winston Churchill, in a postwar speech.

Churchill and the special relationship

The use of the phrase ‘special relationship is believed to stretch back to the 19th century when Britain was the dominant world power and the United States a growing industrial nation.

But the term was popularised by Winston Churchill when he used it in a historic postwar speech in the US.

The address in Fulton, Missouri, in March 1946 is best known for coining the term ‘Iron Curtain’ to describe Soviet Russia and its Eastern European allies.

But Mr Churchill, who had been boosted out of Downing Street by Labour the previous year, used the term to describe the closeness between the US, then the global superpower, and Britain and its Commonwealth allies. 

In a speech highlighting the risks posed by Communism in the atomic age, he said: ‘Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organisation will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples. 

‘This means a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States. 

‘This is no time for generalities, and I will venture to be precise. Fraternal association requires not only the growing friendship and mutual understanding between our two vast but kindred Systems of society, but the continuance of the intimate relationship between our military advisers, leading to common study of potential dangers, the similarity of weapons and manuals of instructions, and to the interchange of officers and cadets at technical colleges. 

‘It should carry with it the continuance of the present facilities for mutual security by the joint use of all Naval and Air Force bases in the possession of either country all over the world. This would perhaps double the mobility of the American Navy and Air Force. It would greatly expand that of the British Empire Forces and it might well lead, if and as the world calms down, to important financial savings. 

‘Already we use together a large number of islands; more may well be entrusted to our joint care in the near future.’ 

It has since been repeatedly used by leaders of both countries to describe the close political, economic and military co-operation between the two countries, especially during the Cold War.

However, more recently questions have been raised over how special the relation continues to be, with the US under successive leaders switching its attention westward to the indo-pacific region, and the growing threat of Communist China.  

In 2015, a leaked memo for members of Congress said that ‘the UK may not be viewed as centrally relevant to the United States in all of the issues and relations considered a priority on the US agenda’. 

In the wide-ranging Atlantic piece – which he was advised against taking part in – Mr Johnson accused people of being ‘ignorant’ if they thought he was like Donald Trump.

‘I’m laboriously trying to convey to an American audience that this is a category error that has been repeatedly made,’ the Prime Minister said.

‘The point I’m trying to get over to you and your readers is that you mustn’t mistake this government for being some sort of bunch of xenophobes or autarkic economic nationalists.’

It came amid reports that Mr Biden is set to warn Boris Johnson not to renege on the Northern Ireland Brexit arrangements when they hold talks at the G7 this week.

The US president is coming to Cornwall for his first foreign trip as the PM hosts the face-to-face gathering of world leaders.

But although he is vowing to ‘affirm the special relationship’ with the UK, Mr Biden is also expected to lay down a marker on the wrangling with the EU over Northern Ireland.

The tough line comes as Brexit minister Lord Frost admitted that the government ‘underestimated’ the impact of the protocol when it signed up to the deal.

The peer – who is meeting his EU counterpart for the latest talks on the situation this week – urged the bloc to abandon ‘legal purism’ and recognise that ‘time is running out’ to find a way through the impasse.

The agreement struck by Mr Johnson over Northern Ireland has fuelled fears over rising sectarian tensions.

A raft of checks on goods at the ports of Belfast and Larne have sparked unionist fury about obstacles to trade with the British mainland.

Writing in the Washington Post ahead of his trip at the end of this week, Mr Biden said: ‘In the United Kingdom, after meeting with prime minister Boris Johnson to affirm the special relationship between our nations, I will participate in the G7 summit.

‘This group of leading democracies and economies has not met in person in two years due to the coronavirus.

‘Ending this pandemic, improving health security for all nations and driving a robust, inclusive global economic recovery will be our top priorities.’

According to The Times, Mr Biden will also make clear that he sees the protocol as a crucial part of maintaining peace in Northern Ireland – suggesting that a trade deal with the US would be at risk if it is not honoured.

However, he could also deliver a message to Brussels that they must be more ‘flexible’ and less ‘bureaucratic’.

Lord Frost said the UK Government had ‘underestimated’ the impact the Northern Ireland Protocol, which he helped to negotiate as part of the initial Brexit deal, would have on the region.

He has called on the European Union to forgo ‘legal purism’ and instead embrace ‘pragmatic solutions’ to help resolve the difficulties related to the protocol.

The protocol has angered unionists by effectively creating a barrier between Great Britain and Northern Ireland by leaving the region tied to a range of EU customs and regulatory rules.

Talks are continuing between the EU and the UK Government to solve some of the issues but many unionists have called for it to be scrapped over fears Northern Ireland is being separated from the rest of Great Britain.

In an article for the Financial Times before his meeting this week with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic in London, Lord Frost set out his call for a shift in attitude from the bloc.

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