U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had a bilateral meeting in Bali on the fringes of the G20 Summit, where discussed the U.K.’s Indo Pacific priorities, Russia and Northern Ireland. Mr Sunak had, as per his press secretary, told Mr Biden that the border issues with Northern Ireland, which have arisen following Brexit, would be resolved by the spring next year.
This is the first meeting between the two men – since Mr Sunak, assumed office at the end of October.
Readouts from both said the leaders discussed upholding the Belfast/Good Friday agreement – i.e., the framework for peace in Northern Ireland . U.S. officials have previously indicated that a free trade deal with the U.K., contingent on the U.K. respecting the Northern Ireland Protocol – avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland. The issue of a hard-border has arisen since the U.K. left the European Union (EU) as Ireland continues to be a part of the EU.
Mr Sunak agreed with Mr Biden that the issue will be resolved by the 25th anniversary of the agreement in the spring next year, the Guardian reported.
“The prime minister did refer to that anniversary next year and ensuring that we get a negotiated settlement that protects the Good Friday agreement by then,” Mr Sunak’s press secretary was quoted as saying.
The Downing Street readout also said that Mr Sunak and Mr Biden “stressed the importance of likeminded allies providing a counterpoint to authoritarian regimes, including ensuring developing countries can grow in a sustainable way”.
The leaders also agreed on the importance of “sustained engagement” in the Indo Pacific, citing AUKUS (a security alliance between Australia the U.K., and the U.S.) as an example, as per Downing Street. Mr Sunak also outlined Britain’s Indo-Pacific priorities, including joining the CPTPP trade bloc. The U.K. is currently in the process of acceding to the treaty.
The meeting included discussions on Russia’s “barbaric missile strikes in Ukraine”, a White House readout said. The explosion in eastern Poland was also discussed, as were the “challenges posed by China” , climate and sustainable and secure energy supplies. The Downing Street readout of the meeting did not refer to China, as the White House readout did.
However, hours before the meeting, Mr Sunak’s office released a statement previewing a meeting he was supposed to have with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday.
Mr Sunak was seeking “to establish a frank and constructive relationship” between the two countries the statement said , even as it called the challenges from China “systemic“ and “long-term”.
“China is a country with fundamentally different values to ours, with an authoritarian leadership intent on reshaping the international order,” the statement said.
Wednesday’s meeting between Mr Sunak and Mr Xi was cancelled due to “scheduling issues” according to the U.K. government. Mr Biden had convened an emergency meeting with G7 and NATO leaders to discuss the missile strike in Poland that killed two people, which reportedly resulted in the day’s schedule changing.