Politics

Biden Welcomes Closer UK-Europe Ties in First Starmer Meeting

US President Joe Biden, right, and Keir Starmer, UK prime minister, during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. Starmer today signaled Ukraine can strike military targets inside Russia with Britain’s Storm Shadow missiles, confirming he would continue the previous UK government's policy on the use of its long-range weapons in the Russia-Ukraine war. Photographer: Ting Shen/Bloomberg (Ting Shen/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden called the UK the “knot” that ties the NATO alliance together as he praised new Prime Minister Keir Starmer’s efforts to forge closer ties with Europe.

It was the first meeting of the two leaders since the Labour Party won the British election less than a week ago.

“I kind of see you guys as the knot tying the transatlantic alliance together, the closer you are with Europe,” Biden said, speaking in the Oval Office on Wednesday night. 

“I think that’s absolutely right,” Starmer replied.

The remarks will be seen as a tacit endorsement by the US president of Starmer’s attempts to secure closer relations with the European Union, after the UK’s vote to leave the bloc in 2016 and several acrimonious years that followed under successive Conservative administrations. Biden has called for better UK-EU relations on several previous occasions.

Starmer has spent much of his time at this week’s NATO summit in Washington meeting European leaders as he seeks an agreement on a new UK-EU defense and security pact. Britain could present further proposals on the idea at a meeting of the European Political Community hosted in the UK next week.

The UK premier hailed what’s often called the “special relationship” with the US, telling Biden it is “so important.” 

“It’s forged in difficult circumstances, endured for so long, and stronger now than ever. I’m very pleased to be able to come so early in government to recommit to NATO, to recommit to the special relationship and to discuss these affairs with you,” he said.

Much of their first meeting was dominated by pleasantries about England’s soccer victory over the Netherlands in the European Championships, which took place just before the talks. “It’s because of the prime minister,” Biden joked.

Biden shrugged in response to questions from reporters regarding George Clooney’s call earlier Wednesday for him to leave the presidential race in the wake of his disastrous debate with Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, in June.

--With assistance from Jon Herskovitz.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.