World

UK PM Johnson faces uphill task in forging bond with Biden

LONDON: From his "racist comments" to populist image, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is viewed with disdain by some in Mr Joe Biden's camp.

But Mr Johnson was quick to act.

"The United States is our closest and most important ally. And that's been the case under president after president, prime minister after prime minister," Mr Johnson said in a broadcast interview on Sunday.

"It won't change," he insisted, despite the bad blood of the past.

"And I look forward to working with President Biden and his team on a lot of crucial stuff for us in the weeks and months ahead: Tackling climate change, trade, international security."

Still, the Irish-American president-elect's ambivalence towards Britain was illustrated in a viral video shared by a BBC reporter in Washington on Saturday, after the Democrat declared victory over US President Donald Trump.

"The BBC? I'm Irish!" a smiling Biden retorted in the video from January, ignoring the reporter's plea to ask a question.

The tone was jocular but Mr Biden's discontent with Mr Johnson is on record, after the prime minister introduced Brexit-related legislation that both Dublin and leading US Democrats fear could undermine peace in Northern Ireland.

In September, Mr Biden warned Britain could forget about its hopes for a US trade deal after Brexit takes full effect on Jan 1, if Northern Ireland becomes a "casualty".

Last December, as Mr Johnson closed in on a general election victory, Mr Biden showed his own disdain in describing the Conservative politician as a "physical and emotional clone" of Mr Trump.

Mr Johnson's long trail of provocative comments has come back to haunt him at a time when France and Germany are beating their own path to Mr Biden's door.

Mr Biden was Vice-President to Mr Barack Obama when Mr Johnson, in 2016, wrote that Mr Obama was anti-UK owing to his "part-Kenyan" heritage and "ancestral dislike of the British Empire".

Former Obama aide Tommy Vietor was scornful in response to Mr Johnson's warm words on social media.

"This shapeshifting creep weighs in," Mr Vietor tweeted. "We will never forget your racist comments about Obama and slavish devotion to Trump, but neat Instagram graphic." - AFP

WORLD