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The two policies could fastrack Boris Johnson into Joe Biden’s good books – as talks over an all-important trade agreement with the US stall. Cracking down on China, in particular, is seen as a way for Mr Johnson to put the UK in pole position ahead of the European Union, who recently signed a controversial deal with Beijing. Britain has clashed with China over the controversial law imposed on Hong Kong, spy issues around Huawei and treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Downing Street officials insist their approach to China is in contrast to the EU, which rushed through a new investment deal with Beijing just as the ink was drying on the post-Brexit trade deal between London and Brussels.
The deal was still pushed through, despite Mr Biden’s incoming National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan urging the EU to take America’s “common concerns” into account – something the new US President’s team are “deeply unhappy about”, according to the UK’s former national security adviser Mark Sedwill writing in The Daily Mail.
He said: “We need a consistent, coherent and comprehensive allied consensus in a new relationship with China.
“We must contest their behaviour when it disrupts global security, breaks international trade rules, breaches our own anti-slavery measures.”
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The UK Government will also attempt to soothe concerns from Mr Biden over Brexit and, in particular, Northern Ireland.
Mr Johnson and Mr Biden, who have never met, already don’t appear to have the best relationship, with the new US President once describing the Prime Minister as a “physical and emotional clone” of bitter rival Donald Trump.
Mr Biden, who has Irish roots, is opposed to Brexit and was left furious by the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill.
He even threatened to pull the plug on a US-UK trade deal if the controversial clauses to override key parts of the Withdrawal Agreement – namely around the Northern Ireland Protocol – and subsequently break internal law, were not stripped out.
But tension around Northern Ireland and Brexit could soon be calmed with the first ministerial trips to the US as Mr Biden and his team settle into the White House.
Mr Johnson’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis is expected to visit soon, while a staff member focussed on Northern Ireland issues could also be appointed to the US embassy in London.
The moves are pointing towards the UK wanting to quickly demonstrate its willingness to work on the issues surrounding Northern Ireland.
Mr Lewis has been in close contact with Richard Neal of the Ways and Means Committee – a close ally of Nancy Pelosi – and there is increasing hope Downing Street can use this avenue to explain its perspective.
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Mr Biden will be sworn in as the 46th US President on Wednesday, replacing Donald Trump after just one term following the election win in November.
Commenting on the prospect of being able to pick up the phone and begin contact with Mr Biden’s team, a UK Government advisor told Politico: “Expect a lot of movement in the coming days.”
Elsewhere, the UK continues to be at pains to emphasise it is more aligned to Mr Biden’s views on several important matters than it ever was with Mr Trump.
These include climate change, the promotion of democratic values and the UK’s willingness to back up good diplomatic intentions with defence spending.
In his statement welcoming the inauguration of Mr Biden on Tuesday evening, Mr Johnson declared: “In our fight against COVID and across climate change, defence, security and in promoting and defending democracy, our goals are the same and our nations will work hand in hand to achieve them.”
The UK is hosting the G7 summit in June – expected to be the first meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Biden – and COP26 UN climate change meeting in November.
Sophia Gaston, director of the London-based British Foreign Policy Group think tank, believes the UK’s stated priorities for the G7 summit are angled towards Mr Biden’s foreign policy goals.
She said: “The G7 agenda appears to have been designed to demonstrate three things: the areas where the UK feels it has a genuine leadership role, such as in tackling climate change; the UK’s capabilities as a global convenor, bringing together the first outline of a ‘D10’ democracy alliance (G7 plus India, South Korea and Australia); and opening ground for foreign policy collaboration with the United States, but from a starting point as equals.”
Ms Gaston added the UK could also use the G7 summit to detail its Global Britain agenda, with opposition against China a central element.
She continued: “We can expect to see the UK starting to put some of the meat on the bones, seeking to broker commitments on Magnitsky sanctions, targeting those accused of human rights abuses, challenging China on human rights and its aggressive recent behaviour towards Australia, and shoring up the global pandemic recovery response.”
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