President Joe Biden arrived in London late Saturday for a two-day visit in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, the country’s longtime monarch who he says has “defined an era”.
Biden joins leaders from dozens of other countries to pay their respects to the late king, whom he met last year and then announced that he reminded him of his mother.
On Sunday afternoon, President and First Lady Jill Biden will pay their respects to the Queen, whose coffin lies in Westminster Hall, before signing a Book of Condolences and attending a reception for visiting leaders hosted by Britain’s new king, Charles. Third.
For Biden, it’s a moment to reflect on a king who embodied a commitment to public service and whose life has charted the major historical events of the past 100 years.
Biden and the Queen first met in 1982, when he was a young senator who was told by Biden’s Irish-American mother: “Don’t bow to her.”
He did not bow at the time, or when he met the Queen as president last year while attending the G7 summit in England. But his respect for a woman whose perseverance on the world stage over the past century was unparalleled was evident.
“She was a great lady,” Biden said the day she died.
The Queen’s surprising decision last year to travel to the Corniche coast to meet world leaders at the G7 summit was a sign of her desire to remain involved in global affairs.
Later that week, when Biden and First Lady Jill hosted Biden for tea at Windsor Castle, I inquired about two authoritarian leaders, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the president told reporters afterwards.
“She had such curiosity. She wanted to know all about American politics, and what was going on. She made us feel so relaxed,” Jill Biden said recently in an interview with NBC.
At a reception on Sunday evening, Biden will meet Charles for the first time since becoming king. The two men met before and last week spoke on the phone.
As the Prince of Wales, Charles has been an ardent campaigner on some of the causes Biden has also championed, including the fight against climate change. It remains to be seen to what extent the new king will be involved in these issues in the future.
Relatively close in age — Charles is 73, Biden is 79 — the two men had a combined experience in the public eye for decades before taking on their current roles as head of state.
The White House said Biden, during his call with the King, “conveyed the great admiration of the American people for the Queen, whose dignity and fortitude deepened the enduring friendship and special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.” President Biden conveyed his desire to maintain a close relationship with the King.
Security in the British capital is at a memory high as Biden and dozens of other world leaders gathered to commemorate the late Queen, who met 13 presidents of the United States during her tenure.
White House aides declined to provide specific security details of the president’s visit but said they were working well with their British counterparts to ensure that presidential security demands were met.
Plans for the Queen’s funeral have been in place for years, giving US advisers a deeper view of precisely what will happen over the coming days as they make security arrangements. The White House said it only received an invitation from the president and first lady, making the American footprint slimmer.
Biden traveled with his National Security Adviser, Director of Communications and other personal aides on Air Force One to London.
When reports emerged last week that world leaders would be asked to take a bus to the funeral, US officials were skeptical and dropped Biden’s suggestion that he travel to Westminster Abbey by bus.
In 2018, when other world leaders traveled together in a bus to the World War I memorial in Paris, then-US President Donald Trump traveled separately in his private car. The White House explained at the time that the separate flight was “due to security protocols.”
The Queen’s death came at a moment of economic and political turmoil for the United Kingdom. The new prime minister, Liz Truss, entered the office after months of uncertainty following the decision of her predecessor, Boris Johnson, to step down.
Truss invited several visiting world leaders to meet individually at 10 Downing Street this weekend. In this role for just over a week, it will be the first time Truss has come face-to-face with so many of her foreign counterparts.
While her office initially said Biden would be among the leaders visiting Downing Street, it was later announced that Truss and the president would meet for formal bilateral talks on Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
A range of issues are currently testing the ‘special relationship’ between the US and the UK, which has been announced over and over again. In the days following the death of the queen.
Just two days after Truss traveled to Balmoral Castle in Scotland to formally approve the Queen’s appointment as Prime Minister, the long-reigning monarch passed away. Since then, the country has been in an official period of mourning.
Truss inherited a deep economic crisis, fueled by high inflation and rising energy costs, which led to fears that the UK could soon enter a prolonged recession. The challenges were exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which caused volatility in the oil and gas markets.
While few in the Biden administration shed tears over Johnson’s resignation – Biden once described him as a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump – the US and UK have been deeply allied in their approach to Russia under his leadership.
White House officials expect cooperation to continue under Truss’ leadership, even as she is under pressure to ease economic pressures at home.
What is less certain, however, is whether Truss’s hard-line approach to Brexit will spoil relations with Biden. The president has taken a personal interest in the special issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol, a post-Brexit arrangement that requires additional checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The rules were made to keep the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland open and to avoid a resurgence of sectarian violence. But Truss moved to rewrite those rules, causing deep concern in both Brussels and Washington.
Biden, who frequently refers to his Irish predecessors, has made his views clear on the issue, although it does not directly involve the United States. Similarly, Democrats in Congress have expressed concern about any steps that could reignite the conflict in Northern Ireland.
In their first phone call to counterparts earlier this month, Biden raised the matter with Truss, according to the White House. A US reading of their conversation said they discussed “the joint obligation to protect the gains of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the importance of reaching a negotiated agreement with the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol”.