Politics latest: UK and US strike trade pact as Sunak visits White House (2023)

Key points
  • UK and US announce new partnership
  • Biden says US-UK special relationship 'in real good shape'
  • PM blames pandemic and Ukraine war for lack of US trade deal
  • What is Rishi Sunak up to in Washington DC?
  • Beth Rigby: PM insisting he won't pass the buck if he misses key pledge
  • First Green Party MP to stand down at next election
  • Ali Fortescue: Can the Greens keep hold of the substantial majority won by Caroline Lucas?
  • COVID inquiry calls for public to share stories of pandemic
  • Live reporting by Tim Baker and Faith Ridler earlier


Joe Biden says it could be time for British NATO boss - as Ben Wallace rumoured for top job

By Tim Baker, political reporter

It could be time for a British NATO Secretary General, according to US President Joe Biden.

Amid growing speculation that UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace wants to take over the top role when Jens Stoltenberg stands down later this year, Mr Biden was asked if he would support a Briton taking the top job during a press conference with Rishi Sunak at the White House.

Mr Biden was asked: "In light of the warm words right now about UK/US defence collaboration, particularly in Ukraine, do you think it is time for the first UK Nato Secretary General in two decades?"

The president replied: "Maybe, that remains to be seen."

Mr Biden added: "We're going to have to get a consensus within NATO to see that happen.

"They have a candidate who's a very qualified individual... we have a lot of discussion between us in NATO, to determine what the outcome of that will be."

It was not completely clear if he meant Mr Wallace was the "very qualified individual".

Read the full story below.


Readout of Biden-Sunak bilateral meeting released

Downing Street has released an official read out of the meeting between Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden.

Read-outs are records of meetings between leaders, and are worded in diplomatic language.

It said: "The prime minister met US President Biden at the White House today.

"The leaders welcomed the agreement of the Atlantic Declaration, a new approach to the economic relationship between our countries. This plan will see us embark on the deepest level of economic cooperation either of our two countries have ever had with another country.

"The prime minister and President Biden both agreed that, as likeminded countries with deeply interconnected advanced economies, the UK and US are perfectly placed to take on the challenges of the future.

(Video) White House briefing as UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits for bilateral talks with Joe Biden

"The first agreements under the Atlantic Declaration include new commitments on supporting one another's critical supply chains, developing new, clean technologies and removing barriers to the uninterrupted exchange of goods and services between our economies.

"The leaders agreed that accelerating international cooperation on safe and responsible AI development is one of the pressing issues of our age. As frontier nations, the UK and US will be a crucial part of these efforts alongside international partners.

"The prime minister and President Biden agreed that our economic cooperation forms a fundamental part of the UK-US relationship, complementing our incredibly strong defence and security alliance.

"The leaders welcomed ongoing progress on AUKUS, as well as UK and US leadership in NATO.

"They agreed that the UK and US continue to have an important role to play in bringing stability in regions throughout the world, and countering state and non-state hostile activity.This includes supporting Ukraine in their fight against Putin's illegal invasion.

"The leaders looked forward to seeing one another again at next month's NATO Summit in Vilnius."


UK and US agree new partnership to boost economic security

By Beth Rigby, political editor, at the White House

Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden have agreed a new partnership to bolster economic security in response to the growing threat of China.

Brushing off his failure to deliver on the Tory manifesto promise to land a full-fat free trade deal with the US, the prime minister and US president have just announced the Atlantic Declaration during a meeting at the White House.

The agreement includes a narrow trade pact covering critical minerals needed for electric car batteries, closer defence industry cooperation and a new data protection agreement.

The new accord also contains an in-principle agreement for a deal on those minerals - used to make a range of products from solar panels to electric vehicles - to give UK exporters access to the huge $370bn (£294bn) green subsidies programme, the Inflation Reduction Act, introduced by President Biden to turbocharge huge green investment in the US.

The US signed a similar deal with Japan earlier this year to prohibit the two countries from enacting bilateral export restrictions on the minerals most critical for electric batteries - lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and manganese.

While the prime minister was quick to talk up the new deal, it is not the post-Brexit free trade deal the Conservative Party promised to deliver by the end of 2022 in its 2019 manifesto - when an agreement with the US was cited as the main trade deal target.

Read more.


Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak news conference - recap

The prime minister and president of the US spoke from the White House this evening after meeting together earlier.

(Video) In full: Biden and Sunak announce new partnership to reinforce 'special relationship'

The president started by making a statement on the wildfires in Canada, which have led to swathes of smoke covering cities like Washington DC and New York.

Mr Biden said:

  • The pair discussed Northern Ireland;
  • The meeting was positive and helped deepen relations;
  • "Critical mineral supply chains" were discussed;
  • The two nations remain "unwavering" in their support for Ukraine;
  • There is "no country closer" to the US than the UK - and reaffirms the "special relationship;
  • Asked by a journalist about funding for Ukraine, he says he believes the US has the money to support Kyiv as long as it needs - despite opposition from Congress;
  • Asked about LGBT+ rights in the US, he says the fight is not over for the rights of those people - branding it "wrong" that extreme officials are attacking transgender people, before announcing new protections for the LGBT+ community;
  • In response to a question on why he will not negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK, he says the leaders had a "really good discussion" today about the pair's economic relationship -adding the two countries can still play a "major role" in each other's nations;
  • He says artificial intelligence poses a "fundamental potential technological change" like none seen before;
  • It "may be" time for a British NATO general secretary - implying Ben Wallace - but it depends on the other countries in the alliance;
  • Asked if his economic policy is "America first" by another name, he says that the pandemic showed global supply chains are all interlinked and "globalisation is still real" but that cheap labour overseas needs to be brought back to the United States:
  • But capacity will not be hoarded - instead shared.

Rishi Sunak started his speech by sending his thoughts to those impacted by the incident in southern France.

The prime minister said:

  • He believes the UK and US can lead the world together, including on national security;
  • The US contribution to the war in Ukraine is "decisive" - and he thanks the country for it;
  • Economic security must be protected from the like of Russia and China;
  • This is why the new deal agreed today is necessary;
  • He asks people to judge post-Brexit Britain on its actions;
  • The alliance between the US and UK is "rooted in its people" - and the countries can depend on each other "with absolute conviction";
  • In response to a question about Ukraine, Mr Sunak points out the UK spends more than the NATO target on defence;
  • The UK and US will be behind Ukraine for "as long as it takes";
  • Asked about the future regulation of AI, he says that world leaders need to be "cognisant" of the risks posed by the technology - adding that measures can be implemented cooperatively;
  • He says the free trade agreement with the US promised by Boris Johnson is not needed because it's better to target what can do the most as fast as possible;
  • The US can provide the UK with the economic "interaction and cooperation" it needs.


'Long time' for a one-on-one

Political editor Beth Rigby is waiting for Rishi Sunak and Job Biden to start their news conference at the White House.

She says the two were together for 40 minutes - and then spent another 40 minutes on the bilateral meeting.

"That's a long time for a one-on-one," she notes.

We're expecting the two leaders any time now.


Mr Biden accidentally calls Rishi Sunak 'Mr President'

During their meeting at the White House, Joe Biden accidentally referred to the UK's prime minister by his own title.

The US leader called Rishi Sunak "Mr President".

He quickly corrected himself and joked that he had "promoted" Mr Sunak.

Mr Biden said: "Well, Mr president - Mr president, I just promoted you. Mr prime minister, it's great to have you back."

Mr Sunak, who appeared to laugh off the error, has not been to the White House before as prime minister, only taking office last October.


Sadiq Khan writes to Suella Braverman as migrant barge plan rejected

London's Royal Docks have rejected a Home Office plan to berth a barge housing asylum seekers near City Airport - saying it "would not be an appropriate use" of the King George V dock.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has endorsed the decision in a letter to the home secretary.

Writing to Suella Braverman, Mr Khan said: "I wish first to put on record my support for this decision and secondly to outline my absolute opposition to the government's policy of housing asylum seekers on vessels."

He said the plans would "leave large numbers of people in wholly unsuitable conditions", adding there was "no evidence" to support the home secretary's claim that barge accommodation would have a deterrent effect.

On Monday, Rishi Sunak gave an update on his pledge to "stop the boats", claiming the government's approach was "starting to work", as he revealed two more vessels will be used for migrant accommodation.

In a statement, a Home Office spokesperson said: "The pressure on the asylum system has continued to grow and requires us to look at a range of accommodation options which offer better value for the British taxpayer than expensive hotels.

"This is why we continue to source new alternative sites and vessels to accommodate migrants, which are more manageable for communities, as our European neighbours are doing.

"We understand the concerns of local communities and will work closely with councils and key partners to manage the impact of using these sites, including liaising with local police to make sure appropriate arrangements are in place."

(Video) UK's Sunak Looks to Reconnect With US in Visit


Biden says special relationship 'in real good shape'

Reporters have been allowed into the Oval Office to get pictures of Rishi Sunak and President Biden ahead of their meeting.

Sky's political editor Beth Rigby is there and asked the President if the special relationship between the UK and US is still in good shape.

He responded by giving a thumbs up, and saying it was "in real good shape"

During the brief discussion, President Biden said that the AUKUS defence partnership - which also includes Australia - will make the Indian Ocean "safer" and "more secure".

He confirmed that the pair would discuss artificial intelligence, and would talk about building on the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Sunak said "We will put our values front and centre as we've always done."

The two leaders are expected to hold a joint news conference later this evening.


Sunak arrives at the White House

RishiSunakhas arrived at the White House ahead of a bilateral meeting with President Biden.

(Video) UK PM Sunak to discuss trade issues, AI regulation in first White House visit


Labour donor joins Just Stop Oil protests in Westminster

A prominent Labour Party donor has joined Just Stop Oil protests outside the House of Commons.

Dale Vince, the founder of green-energy company Ecotricity, was part of the slow walk down Whitehall to Trafalgar Square.

Mr Vince's association with the climate protest group has already caused headaches for Sir Keir Starmer.

According to the Sky News Westminster Accounts project, Ecotricity has donated £860k to Labour since the 2019 election, as well as £20k to Sir Keir and £10k to Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner.

Mr Vince's donations to the party over the past decade add up to around £1.5m

Speaking during the protests in Westminster, Mr Vince said: "I'm here to support the incredibly brave people of Just Stop Oil. They put themselves and their liberty on the line.

"I support them in other ways, in the media and with donations, but I thought I would do more."

The demonstrations were part of Just Stop Oil's campaign against new fossil fuel licences.

Speaking on his US trip yesterday, the prime minister was highly critical of Labour taking money from Mr Vince.

Rishi Sunak said: "It does appear that these kind of eco-zealots at Just Stop Oil are writing Keir Starmer's energy policy and, not content with disrupting our summer and cherished sporting events, they are essentially leading us into an energy surrender.

“My view is we should focus on energy security, not weakness and dependency which seems to be the Labour Party's policy.”

Sir Keir recently announced that Labour would not issue new oil and gas drilling licences in the North Sea if they enter government.

Labour has said the idea that Just Stop Oil or Mr Vince have influenced policy was “for the birds”.

Asked if he thought his presence on Thursday's march would help Sir Keir, Mr Vince said: "I can't imagine it will make much difference to Keir Starmer, he's his own man and so am I."

He added: "I hope it doesn't harm (Labour) but I can't not speak out."

(Video) Rishi Sunak admits to having used private healthcare


1. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to meet with Biden during U.S. trip
(NBC News)
2. LIVE: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a briefing with reporters — 06/07/23
(CNBC Television)
3. Oliver Dowden steps in for Rishi Sunak at PMQs – watch live
(Guardian News)
4. Live: Karine Jean-Pierre holds White House press briefing as Rishi Sunak makes US visit
(The Independent)
5. Sunak visits United States to ‘sell the idea’ UK should lead in artificial intelligence policy
(Sky News Australia)
6. 06/07/23: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
(The White House)


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