Boris Johnson hails inauguration of Joe Biden as US president

Boris Johnson hails inauguration of Joe Biden after a ‘bumpy period’ under Donald Trump saying ‘America’s leadership is vital’ to help overcome coronavirus as 46th president of the US is sworn in

  • The Prime Minister said America’s leadership is ‘vital’ to the rest of the world 
  • The two men are expected to meet for the first time this summer in Cornwall
  • The G7 meeting of world leaders is due to take place in Carbis Bay in June

Boris Johnson has congratulated Joe Biden on being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States as he said the nation had been through a ‘bumpy period’ under Donald Trump. 

The Prime Minister said America’s leadership is ‘vital’ to the rest of the world, from tackling the climate crisis to the coronavirus pandemic, as Mr Biden took the oath of office during a ceremony at the US Capitol on Wednesday.

Shortly before his inauguration, Kamala Harris made history as the first woman to become vice-president, as well as the first black person and the first person of South Asian descent to serve in the role. 

Mr Johnson, who had a close but sometimes difficult relationship with Donald Trump, said it was a ‘big moment’ for the UK-US relationship.

The Prime Minister told reporters: ‘When you look at the issues that unite me and Joe Biden, the UK and the United States right now, there’s a fantastic joint common agenda.

‘I really congratulate Joe and Kamala Harris on their achievement, on their inauguration today.

‘It’s a fantastic thing for America, a step forward for the country that has been through a bumpy period. And for us and America it’s a big moment.’

The two men are expected to meet for the first time this summer when the G7 meeting of world leaders takes place in Cornwall. 

The first in-person meeting of the G7 in almost two years will be held in June in Carbis Bay, which has a population of just over 3,000. 

The Queen sent a private message to US president Joe Biden before he was sworn into office, Buckingham Palace has said. 

Mr Biden took the oath of office during a ceremony at the US Capitol this afternoon, taking office at 5pm UK time

The Prime Minister, who watched the inauguration from Downing Street (pictured) said America’s leadership is ‘vital’ to the rest of the world, from tackling the climate crisis to the coronavirus pandemic

Asked if he thought president Biden is ‘woke,’ Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the media: ‘I can’t comment on that. What I know is that he’s a firm believer in the transatlantic alliance and that’s a great thing.

‘And a believer in a lot of the things that we want to achieve together.’

Mr Johnson said: ‘There’s nothing wrong with being woke,’ adding: ‘I put myself in the category of people who believe that it’s important to stick up for your history, your traditions and your values, the things you believe in.’

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also congratulated the incoming Democrat, tweeting: ‘Warm congratulations and best wishes to President Biden and Vice President Harris. Scotland and the USA share long-standing bonds of friendship and co-operation.

‘We look forward to building on these in the years ahead.’

And Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer added: ‘The US begins a new chapter in its history, one of hope, decency, compassion and strength. Together, our two nations can build a better, more optimistic future for our world.’

Diplomats are hoping that the arrival in the White House of Mr Biden will usher in a more predictable era in the US-UK ‘special relationship’ after the turbulent presidency of Donald Trump.

The swearing-in of Mr Biden as the 46th president may raise some uncomfortable questions for Mr Johnson, given his perceived closeness to his predecessor.

But Britain’s ambassador to the US said the overwhelming mood among diplomats in Washington was one of relief that order had been restored after the dramatic storming of the Capitol on January 6 by outraged Trump supporters.

‘I think the whole of the diplomatic corps is very pleased to see American democracy come out on top,’ Dame Karen Pierce told the BBC Radio 4 programme.

Dame Karen sought to play down claims that Mr Johnson may face a cool reception in the new White House after Mr Trump once hailed him as ‘Britain’s Trump’.

‘Whatever President Trump said about the Prime Minister, I don’t think that’s the image people have here of the Prime Minister, to be absolutely honest,’ she said.

Nevertheless, Mr Johnson is regarded with deep suspicion by some senior Democrats around Mr Biden who – unlike Mr Trump – was no fan of Brexit.

Many were offended by his sideswipe at the ‘part-Kenyan’ Barack Obama during the 2016 EU referendum campaign, while Mr Biden once described him as a ‘physical and emotional clone’ of Mr Trump.

But Dame Karen argued that the new president’s commitment to a rules-based international order offered a way forward for future co-operation in the years ahead.

She said that Mr Biden had already signalled his intent to rejoin the Paris accord on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal – both of which were abandoned by Mr Trump.

And with Britain in the chair for the upcoming G7 summit in Cornwall and the Cop26 international climate change conference in Glasgow, there was significant scope to work together on issues of mutual interest.

‘I think everybody is looking forward to a period of co-operation working with allies,’ she said.

‘We want to be able to use our G7 presidency to work with President Biden and Vice-President (Kamala) Harris, and to really get the Covid economic recovery on track, bolstering economic resilience and trying to set things on a recovery path that really reinforces open markets, democratic values, building back better.’

Her words were echoed by former prime minister Theresa May who had a difficult relationship with Mr Trump during her time in office.

Writing in the Daily Mail, she said that while Mr Biden would have his own agenda in pursuit of the US national interest, he would be a ‘more predictable and reliable partner’ than his mercurial predecessor.

‘When a British prime minister walks out for a joint press conference with the world’s media unsure if the United States president standing next to her will agree that Nato is a bulwark of our collective defence, you know you are living in extraordinary times,’ she said of Mr Trump.

Joe Biden addressed the country for the first time as president and declared to the nation that ‘democracy has prevailed’ – after a chaotic transition where his predecessor Donald Trump denied his election win and never congratulated him.

‘The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded,’ Biden said on the West Front of the Capitol just two weeks after MAGA riots threatened to stop the counting of the electoral votes for president in its tracks.

He added: ‘We’ve learned again that democracy’s precious, democracy’s fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.’

After the contentious contest, in which Trump falsely accused him of stealing the election, Biden paid tribute to the peaceful transfer of power and the resilience of American democracy.

‘This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day – a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve, for crucible for the ages America has tested anew and America has risen to the challenge. Today we celebrate not a candidate, but a cause, the cause of democracy,’ he noted.

The 78-year-old thanked his predecessors of both parties for being at his swearing-in. Former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush attended – making Trump’s absence even more notable. Trump skipped the event, flying to Mar-a-Lago after organizing his own pep rally sendoff, telling supporters and family members ‘Have a good life, we will see you soon.

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