Starmer says US relationship ‘stronger than ever’ as he meets Biden – with the help of personalised gift

US

Sir Keir Starmer has met Joe Biden at the White House for formal talks after the prime minister’s debut on the world stage.

The pair were pictured sitting together, and at one point laughing, as the prime minister said the “special relationship with the US is so important and stronger than ever”.

To cement the two countries’ relationship, Sir Keir gifted Mr Biden a personalised Arsenal shirt – printed with his surname and the number 46 on the back, a nod to his presidential number.

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U.S. President Joe Biden hosts a bilateral meeting with Britain's new Prime Minister Keir Starmer, on the sidelines of NATO's 75th anniversary summit, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. July 10, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
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Starmer joins Biden in the Oval Office. Pic: Reuters

The prime minister is an Arsenal season ticket holder and the team in Downing Street hoped the shirt made for a “personal gift” as the two leaders met in the Oval Office.

The UK leader is also giving his counterpart a copy of the Atlantic Charter which paved the way for the formation of NATO, complete with then Labour leader Clement Attlee’s amendments.

Their White House meeting comes after Sir Keir met the US president on Wednesday at the NATO summit in Washington, which is marking the alliance’s 75th anniversary.

He also held talks with other world leaders, including Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The prime minister – who has been in the role for less than a week – said he used his talks with Mr Zelenskyy to stress that the change of government in the UK “makes no difference to the support that we will provide”.

Britain's Prime Minister Keir Starmer, left, speaks with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Washington, ahead of the Nato summit, Wednesday July 10, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)
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Starmer speaks with Zelenskyy. Pic: AP

He told reporters in the US capital that his talks with world leaders were “an opportunity to make sure that those relationships are reset, for me to be able to say that our position on the world stage – leading on issues like defence and security, on climate change, and on energy – are so important”.

The summit is expected to confirm what US and European officials have described as Ukraine’s “irreversible” path to NATO membership, but the alliance is also planning how to “Trump-proof” its future in case the former US president returns to the White House after November’s election.

Mr Biden’s re-election effort has been under intense scrutiny since a disastrous performance in a debate with Trump last month – which has sparked concern for his health and age among Democrats.

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Starmer shakes hands with Biden

Sir Keir even faced questions over the 81-year-old’s ability to lead after one of his proposals included forcing peers to retire from the House of Lords at 80.

The prime minister sidestepped a suggestion that meant Mr Biden was too old, instead insisting he was motivated by reducing the size of the upper chamber.

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“In terms of the age in the House of Lords, the simple fact is that our House of Lords is massive,” he said.

“We’ve got 800-plus members of the House of Lords, it’s simply too big. We need to reduce it.

“So it doesn’t reflect on how other elected representatives are chosen in other countries, it’s to do with the size of the House of Lords.”

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