Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak to discuss Ukraine, climate and Brexit before president meets King Charles

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Joe Biden said the UK and US have a ‘rock solid’ relationship despite differences over cluster munitions being sent to Ukraine

The President of the United States has hailed the “rock-solid” relationship between the US and the UK as he met Rishi Sunak in Downing Street.

Joe Biden will meet with the Prime Minister in Downing Street, with brief talks thought to have been focused on the war in Ukraine following the US’ controversial decision to send cluster munitions to Kyiv.

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The pair will also likely discuss the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland and the environment, before Biden heads to Windsor Castle where he will have tea with the King.

What did Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak discuss?

Joe Biden arrived in the UK on Sunday evening (9 July), with the special presidential plane Air Force One touching down at London Stansted at around 9.45pm. He then travelled via helicopter to the US ambassador’s residence

This morning (10 July) the US president arrived at Downing Street at around 10.30am to sit down with Rishi Sunak. The brief meeting was be the sixth between the pair since Sunak took office.

The US president praised the closeness of ties between the two countries as he and the Prime Minister held talks in the garden of No 10.

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Biden, whose short layover in London comes ahead of a crunch Nato summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, said the “relationship is rock solid”. He said he “couldn’t be meeting with a closer friend and a greater ally”.

Sunak said the pair would continue talks on how the UK and US can “strengthen our co-operation, our joint economic security, to the benefit of our citizens”.

Ahead of the Nato gathering, the Prime Minister said the US and UK “stand as two of the firmest allies in that alliance”.

Biden and Sunak discussed the US’ decision to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions and the country’s bid to join Nato. No 10 confirmed that the issue was discussed in the meeting between the leaders, which lasted around 40 minutes and was also attended by US secretary of state Antony Blinken and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

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The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said providing the weapons “was a difficult choice for the US” that had been “forced on them by Russia’s war of aggression”.

The two leaders “discussed the commitments that UK has under that convention, both not to produce or use cluster munitions and to discourage their use”.

The UK is signed up to an international convention to ban the weapons, placing Mr Sunak under a duty to speak out against their use, but the US is not signed up to that agreement.

The spokesman said that Mr Sunak complied with the UK’s international commitments and that the two men “discussed the requirements the Prime Minister is under because of this convention, and the UK is upholding that”.

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Biden, who has made a number of interventions regarding Brexit and its impact on the island of Ireland, was also expected to raise the issue with Sunak, The leaders briefly discussing the importance of the 1998 peace accord during Monday’s talks.

A White House readout of the meeting said that the pair “discussed the Atlantic Declaration on economic partnership they launched in June, including next steps to drive toward key outcomes in the months ahead”.

“They also reviewed developments in Northern Ireland and efforts to ensure continued progress there.”

Biden’s special climate envoy John Kerry told the BBC the environment will be a “critical component” of their talks. Artificial intelligence and trade would also likely points of discussion.

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Sunak has said Britain “discourages” the use of cluster munitions, as one of 123 signatories of a convention banning the bombs, but No 10 would not say whether he will raise the issue.

The White House said the pair will “compare notes” on the Ukrainian counter-offensive as it makes slow but steady progress in driving out the Russian forces.

Though all allies at the summit in Vilnius on Tuesday agree that Ukraine cannot join during the war, a move which would pull the wider West into direct conflict with Russia, the US is seen as most hesitant over its membership.

Biden has described Kyiv’s bid as “premature”, telling CNN: “I don’t think it’s ready for membership in Nato.”

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Britain on the other hand has indicated support for a fast-track approach for Ukraine.

King Charles to host Joe Biden

Though it is not a full-blown state visit, Biden was treated to a display of pageantry at Windsor Castle. He received a royal salute and heard the US national anthem courtesy of the Welsh Guards, before having tea with Charles.

Starting Tuesday, Biden and Sunak will both be at the Nato talks centring on Ukraine and its bid to join the defence alliance.

The president is also likely to face questions from allies on why he is sending cluster munitions to Kyiv when two thirds of Nato members have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

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It prohibits the use, stockpiling or transfer of the munitions, which deploy a large number of bomblets across a wide area, because of the enduring danger they pose to civilians.

Defending the move, Biden sought to justify the bombs as needed to fortify Ukraine’s depleting ammunition stocks after receiving assurances about their use from Kyiv.

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