Rishi Sunak to visit Washington next week for talks with Biden

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will hold talks with US President Joe Biden next week as they discuss improving economic ties and ways to maintain military support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.

Sunak will be in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday next week for meetings with Biden, members of Congress and US business leaders, but there will be no talks on a formal free trade agreement, a Sunak spokesman said Tuesday.

“The visit will provide an opportunity to continue the discussions that the Prime Minister and President Biden have had in recent months about increasing the level of cooperation and coordination between the UK and the US on economic issues that will shape our future,” the spokesman said. said.

“There will also be an opportunity to discuss issues, including maintaining our support for Ukraine.”

Sunak, who will make his first official visit to Washington since he was appointed prime minister in October, wants to improve relations with the US after it was strained by the UK’s exit from the European Union in 2020.

In April, a White House official was forced to deny that Biden was “anti-British” after he spent more than half a day in the British province of Northern Ireland and then traveled south to the Republic of Ireland for two and a half days. meetings.

The Biden administration showed little interest in negotiating a free trade deal with the United Kingdom, which Britain’s Brexit supporters once touted as one of the main benefits of leaving the bloc.

Discussions continued during the administration of former US President Donald Trump, until Biden came to power, and then negotiations stalled.

Sunak’s spokesman said on Tuesday that the visit would not see negotiations on a free trade agreement, but would instead focus on reducing trade barriers in other ways, such as agreements with individual states.

The White House statement said the two leaders will also discuss the situation in Northern Ireland, which has been without a devolved government for over a year.

Britain’s relationship with the United States is built in part on close defense, intelligence, economic and cultural ties, and Ukraine is heavily supported by both sides.

Sunak accepted Biden’s invitation to visit the White House in March when the two leaders met in San Diego to inaugurate the next phase of an undersea alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia known as AUKUS.

The two men seemed to get along well during this visit: Biden noted that Sunak was a Stanford University graduate and asked to visit his Santa Monica home, which he still owns.

© 2023 Thomson Reuters.