She may be a descendant of King George III, the main reason for America’s creation, and he is the living embodiment of her success as an independent nation, but they come together as two individuals who know each other better. than anyone the burden of leadership and a life lived in the fires of world fame.
Queen Elizabeth II relished her encounters with the 13 presidents she met during her long reign, and her high tea with the president and Jill Biden at Windsor Castle on Sunday was a special moment.
(Even the president’s spectacular breach of royal protocol by divulging the details of her conversation with the monarch – she apparently asked for her impressions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Xi Jinping – did not dampen the appeal.)
The rally capped off what the UK government will surely consider to be a hugely successful visit to Britain from the Bidens for the G7 summit, a visit that went easier than they initially dared to hope.
The timing of the summit favored the British hosts; The home advantage meant Downing Street could capitalize on the relief all world leaders were clearly feeling when they met in person for the first time after a trying year of Covid restrictions and video calls.
Perhaps as a result, the summit was broadly regarded as a success, with more progress than is often the case during such events, including historic agreements on vaccine sharing, the fight against climate change and a new project to challenge the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.
It was telling that it ended on a positive note at the castle, as the visibility of the Royal Family during events surrounding the G7 represents the deployment of one of the UK’s most powerful soft power weapons.
The thought and care that went into making the Bidens’ trip as enjoyable as possible portends a nervousness on the part of the UK government over the President’s attitude towards the UK as he grapples with post toothache -Brexit.
When a simmering feud between the EU and its former member erupted on the eve of the summit over the somewhat prosaic issue of chilled meats – inevitably spurring the “sausage wars” headlines – the US made it clear on which side their bread was buttered.
Sausage jokes aside, the setback concerns the issue of the unhindered passage of British goods to Northern Ireland, which is still part of the UK despite sharing a land border with Ireland, a state member of the EU, with all the questions of sovereignty that this raises.
As the child of Irish grandparents, Biden is perhaps more suspicious than previous presidents of any feud that threatens to stir up tensions between the parties to the 1998 Good Friday deal.
So, the day before Biden arrived in Cornwall, at the southern tip of the UK, for the summit, Britain’s top American diplomat, Yael Lempert, was let loose to issue an unprecedented diplomatic reprimand. under the name of “move”, dispelling the president’s concern over the prospect of Brexit-related quarrels rekindling unrest.
When Biden used his first address on British soil to quote the famous Irish poet WB Yeats lines on Irish independence, “Easter 1916”, Downing Street must have despaired.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was already late with the Biden administration on feeling he was too close to the latter’s predecessor, who once described him as “Britain’s Trump.”
But despite all the blonde hair and populism, Johnson is not Donald Trump – on the one hand, he is a staunch supporter of the fight against climate change (a program he has taken up with more heart since he reunited with his wife, now a passionate environmentalist (Carrie née Symonds).
But the concern over how best to optimize this trip to put the Johnson-Trump relationship in the past was well placed. British voters were almost universal in their antipathy for Trump, and despite attempts by Johnson (and before him, Theresa May) to court Trump’s favor, there was a collective sigh of relief inside and out. outside government during Biden’s victory in November. His ascendancy promised the welcome return of something approaching diplomatic normality in Washington.
Hence the deployment of the big royal guns for the G7. In addition to tea at the castle, the Bidens and other world leaders dined with the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and other royals at the Eden Project on Friday evening, while Jill Biden co -wrote an article on the early years and visited a school alongside the Duchess of Cambridge, aka Kate Middleton.
And it soon became clear that despite his concerns over Northern Ireland, Biden was ready to play the good cop – by gifting Johnson, who is an avid cyclist, a bespoke bike painted in red, white and blue.
The President appeared sympathetic and calming, telling Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab that given his own experience of losing his first wife and child in a traffic accident, he sympathized with Harry Dunn’s family, the British teenager killed after being struck by a car driven by Anne Sacoolas, wife of an American diplomat who fled to the United States claiming diplomatic immunity. The two sides agreed to explore the prospect of a virtual trial that would allow him to stay in the United States while providing the Dunn family with some form of resolution.
Shortly after becoming president, Biden said, “America is back. Diplomacy is back.” Despite everything Johnson has said he is not a fan of the term, it looks like the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the US is also back.