Biden And Boris Johnson Sign Atlantic Charter Just Like FDR And Churchill President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed a 21st century Atlantic Charter, an update of a document that tied the countries together during World War II.

With An Eye To History, Biden And Johnson Try To Rekindle The 'Special Relationship'

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Some 80 years ago, a British prime minister and an American president met on a ship and signed a charter that would lay out the principles for how things should look after the Second World War.


WINSTON CHURCHILL: This was a meeting which marks forever in the pages of history the taking up by the English-speaking nations, amid all this peril, tumult and confusion, of the guidance of the fortunes of the broad, toiling masses in all the continents.

KELLY: That, of course, was Winston Churchill speaking after his meeting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Some historians like to say their partnership saved the world, and there were some echoes back to that today when President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met for the first time in a seaside town in England. NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez was there. Hey, Franco.


KELLY: All right. Tell us about this meeting.

ORDOÑEZ: Well, you know, the leaders agreed to a new version, an updated version of that famous Atlantic Charter that Churchill and FDR signed. And with this document, Biden and Johnson are sort of casting themselves in the position of being champions of democracy, you know, fighting against those who undermine it and together fighting problems like climate change and COVID-19. But this meeting today, it was actually fairly modest in scale. They looked at a copy of the original charter under glass and exchanged some brief pleasantries, but most of their meeting was behind closed doors.

KELLY: Brief pleasantries - I wonder, were you able to get any sense of their relationship? Because Boris Johnson, of course, was very friendly with Biden's rival for the presidency, with former President Donald Trump.

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. Trump once called him Britain Trump, and he meant that as a compliment. Johnson, of course, was a champion of Brexit. Biden was against Brexit, and Biden is all about rebuilding global alliances, you know, not breaking them up. But they have some common ground in their political role models. Biden often talks about FDR's policies for rebuilding America, and Johnson wrote a book about Churchill. And today, they agreed on the broad principles.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We talked about the shared sacrifices our service members have made bravely serving side by side in Afghanistan for close to 20 years. The U.K. was with us from the start, as they always are, equally committed to rooting out the terrorist threat. And now we're coordinating our withdrawal together. And, of course, we talked about how our two nations can together lead the global fight against COVID-19.

KELLY: So that was Biden today. What did we hear from the prime minister?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, you know, that's the funny thing. Biden said they had a productive meeting and they discussed a range of issues, but they didn't give joint remarks afterward. Biden just gave a small update, you know, during remarks about his own plans to address the global pandemic. You know, his focus was on his new promise to give vaccines to countries that can't afford to buy them. And he said we can expect the G-7 leaders to talk more about their plans to help the world recover from the pandemic tomorrow.

KELLY: Another point of tension between these two has been Northern Ireland. Did that come up?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. It's a sensitive issue, but it was part of their written statement afterward. The leaders said they are committed to the Good Friday Agreement, that it's a deal brokered by the U.S. that helped establish peace in Northern Ireland for a couple of decades now. Now, Brexit has renewed some tensions there because Northern Ireland is part of the U.K., while the Republic of Ireland remains part of the European Union. And - but as a candidate, Joe Biden has warned that any threat to the Good Friday Agreement could ruin chances for a trade deal.

KELLY: So lots to watch there, too. NPR's Franco Ordoñez traveling with the president - thanks, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you.

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