PM buoyed by relaxation of COVID travel rules ahead of White House meeting

Politics

US President Joe Biden will welcome Boris Johnson to the White House later.

The prime minister will travel from the UN General Assembly in New York to Washington for the Oval Office meeting which would, in all likelihood, have happened well before now had it not been for the pandemic.

It has been just three months since the Prime Minister and the President last met at the G7 in Cornwall. But what a long tricky summer it has been since then.

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Kerry ‘confident’ of $100bn climate target

Trans-Atlantic relationships have been strained. The worth of NATO has been questioned by the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The pandemic endures, with global vaccination efforts faltering. And November’s high stakes Climate Change summit in Glasgow is ever closer with the risk of it falling short of the pledges made.

The prime minister will arrive in the West Wing of the White House with two unexpected boosts.

The news on Monday that the US will, in November, scrap the COVID-related travel ban for EU and UK travellers was as surprising as it was welcome.

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PM: Rich countries must ‘step-up’

And the hints by President Biden’s climate envoy to Sky News that America will commit to funds for developing countries, as called for by Mr Johnson, is a positive move.

“It will make a huge difference and I think it will send a massively powerful signal to the world that we in the industrialised west really do take it seriously,” Mr Johnson said.

With Mr Johnson and Mr Biden both in New York, their meeting could easily have been there too.

But holding it at the White House, in the Oval Office, carries much more weight.

The so-called special relationship looks that much more convincingly special with the Oval Office backdrop.

Donald Trump and Theresa May talk at the White House
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The last time a UK Prime Minister was hosted at the White House was in 2017

The optics of these monuments through the years are of course important, but it is the results that matter.

On climate, Mr Johnson may get something to take with him to the Glasgow conference he is hosting.

But on that all-important post Brexit US/UK trade deal, do not hold your breath.

Before the Oval Office meeting, there will be other key diplomatic moments to watch through the day too.

President Biden has numerous strained relationships to mend following the Afghanistan withdrawal and he is expected to hold talks with France’s President Macron amid the most extraordinary spat over the supply of nuclear powered submarines to Australia.

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