WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will agree Thursday to a new Atlantic Charter, modeled after the 1941 agreement, that outlines eight key areas on which the U.S. and the United Kingdom plan to collaborate.
The new charter will highlight that “while the world is a very different place to 1941, the values the U.K. and U.S. share remain the same,” according to a preview of the updated charter released by Johnson’s office at 10 Downing Street.
Those values include “defending democracy, reaffirming the importance of collective security, and building a fair and sustainable global trading system,” the release said.
The charter will also commit to combatting the modern challenges of cyberthreats and climate change and to bringing the coronavirus pandemic to an end. As part of the agreement, Biden and Johnson will also work to reopen travel between the U.S. and U.K. as soon as possible. They plan to create a new travel task force that will make recommendations about safely reopening international travel.
“Many people in the U.K. and U.S. have been prevented from seeing family and friends for over 400 days as a result of coronavirus travel restrictions,” Johnson’s office said. “The task force will work to explore options for resuming up UK-US travel and ensure that the U.K. and U.S. closely share thinking and expertise on international travel policy going forward.”
To help bring an end to the pandemic globally, the two leaders are expected to agree to work together on genomic sequencing and reviewing Covid-19 variants.
They also plan to agree to a new deal that would be signed next year to help alleviate obstacles British technology firms face when working with U.S. counterparts.
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed the updated Atlantic Charter agreement aboard Air Force One while en route to the U.K. Wednesday for Biden’s first trip abroad as president.
“There’ll be a refresher of the Atlantic Charter, which is now 80 years old,” Sullivan told reporters. “So, there will be an updated statement of principles between the U.S. and the UK, as free societies and free peoples, speaking out about what we believe in in this 21st century.”
The Atlantic Charter was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941, outlining their goals for after World War II. Johnson’s office described it as “one of the greatest triumphs of U.K. and U.S. relations and did more than any other agreement to shape the world order, leading directly to the creation of the UN and NATO.”
Biden and Johnson are scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting together Thursday at Carbis Bay, Cornwall in the southwest of England on Thursday ahead of the G7 Summit with other world leaders, which starts Friday.
Tensions over Brexit’s impact
But while the two leaders will seek to invoke a spirit of historic unity Thursday, there was evidence of early tension.
Their collaborative announcement was somewhat overshadowed in the U.K. after the Biden administration issued a warning to Johnson not to let Brexit threaten peace in Northern Ireland.
The British prime minister was the chief architect of his country’s departure from the European Union, which Biden has always opposed. The president, who has Irish heritage, is among those who worry Brexit is inflaming sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland.
Decades of conflict between mostly Catholic “nationalists” — who want Northern Ireland to reunite with the Irish Republic — and mostly Protestant “unionists” — who want the area to remain part of the U.K. — were calmed by a 1998 peace deal called the Good Friday Agreement.
Brexit has put a strain on that deal because it changes complex trade rules and threatens to upend the delicate settlement between the province’s two rival communities.
“President Biden has been crystal clear about his rock-solid belief in the Good Friday Agreement as the foundation for peaceful co-existence in Northern Ireland,” Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One. “Any steps that imperil it or undermine it would not be welcomed by the United States.”
And while the Atlantic Charter represents the latest chapter in the “special relationship” between Washington and London, the British government said this week that Johnson doesn’t like that term. An aide told The Atlantic in a profile about Johnson that the prime minister thought the phrase appeared needy.