EDINBURGH, Scotland—It’s fair to say that Joe Biden’s trip to Britain got off to a less than perfect start when he was branded “senile” by pro-Brexit lawmakers after wading into Boris Johnson’s sausage war.
So, when the two leaders met in person on Thursday ahead of the G7 summit in England—which officially kicks off later Friday—they put on a bit of a show for the world’s media. Both seemed determined to prove that they actually get on super well, so much so that Johnson tried to upgrade the “special relationship” between their nations to “indestructible.”
“Look, I don’t mind the phrase ‘special relationship’ because it is special,” he told BBC News in an interview immediately after the meeting with Biden. “You can call it the ‘deep and meaningful relationship,’ whatever you want, the ‘indestructible relationship.’ It’s a relationship that has endured for a very long time, and has been an important part of peace and prosperity both in Europe and around the world.”
While Thursday morning’s newspaper front pages in Britain got excited about the supposed diplomatic bust-up between Biden and Johnson over post-Brexit trading rules, Friday’s were much cozier. Several showed Johnson’s new wife, Carrie, frolicking in the sand with First Lady Jill Biden and Johnson’s familiarly fuzzy-haired baby son, Wilfred.
The president seemed to take a shine to Carrie, commenting with borderline creepiness to the press: “I told the prime minister we have something in common... We both married way above our station.”
The Times of London also revealed details about the gifts exchanged between the two world leaders. According to the report, Biden gave his British counterpart a $6,000 bicycle emblazoned with the U.S. and British flags—complete with a matching helmet. Johnson’s gift was significantly less extravagant but perhaps slightly more thoughtful—a framed print-out of a free-to-use Wikipedia photograph showing a mural painted in Edinburgh of the 19th century American anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass.
Johnson denied that the two men had disagreed about how he’s treating Biden’s ancestral homeland of Ireland. Biden is reported to have “deep concern” about Johnson’s plans to override part of post-Brexit trade agreements designed to prevent the imposition of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Asked if Biden brought that up, Johnson said: “No, the president didn’t say anything of the kind.”
The two leaders were instead more keen to promote the G7’s expected agreement to donate a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the rest of the world in an attempt to end the pandemic next year. Johnson has pledged to send 100 million vaccines to developing countries, while Biden confirmed plans to donate around 500 million Pfizer doses.
The positive vibes should continue through the day on Friday. Johnson is deploying a full-scale diplomatic assault on the summit by sending in almost the entirety of the British Royal Family. Jill Biden toured a classroom with Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, in the afternoon, and Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and Prince William are expected to attend a dinner with leaders in the evening.
The Bidens will also meet the Queen at Windsor Castle on Sunday.