Boris Johnson dampens hope of signing US trade agreement any time soon

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Boris Johnson last night admitted he faces an uphill battle to persuade Joe Biden to sign a post-Brexit trade deal – saying the President had other ‘fish to fry’.

Speaking ahead of his first White House summit today, Mr Johnson said a number of longstanding trade issues had been resolved, such as tariffs on Scotch whisky and the ban on British beef.

But he played down hopes of an imminent trade deal, which was on the cusp of being agreed when Donald Trump left office last year.

Although he said his relationship with Mr Biden has not ‘been very long in gestation’, he told reporters en route to the US: ‘On the free trade agreement (FTA), the reality is that Joe has a lot of fish to fry. He’s got a huge infrastructure package, he’s got a build back better package.

‘We want to do it – but what we want is a good FTA, a great FTA. And I have quite a lot of experience of American negotiations and they are pretty ruthless, the American negotiators.

‘And I would much rather get a deal that really works for the UK than get a quick deal.’

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Boris is ‘not counting chickens’ on any Biden climate cash drive

Boris Johnson has insisted ‘we are not counting our chickens’ over hopes Joe Biden could make a major commitment that would spur on a financing drive to tackle the climate crisis.

The PM said it would ‘send a massively powerful signal’ if the US president announces extra support to help hit a target of giving 100 billion dollars (£73 billion) a year to support developing nations to cut emissions. Mr Johnson had earlier downplayed the prospects of reaching the figure by the Cop26 summit he is hosting in November, but ministers appeared hopeful that Mr Biden could spur things on during his speech at the United Nations on Tuesday.

US climate envoy John Kerry had suggested the 100 billion dollar target will be met, hinting Mr Biden could announce more money. But, speaking to reporters at the UN on Monday, Mr Johnson said: ‘We have been here before. We have all heard lots of pledges and positive noises. We are not counting our chickens here.’ 

Mr Biden was vice-president when Barack Obama issued his notorious threat to place Britain at the ‘back of the queue’ for a US trade deal if it voted for Brexit.

He has also made no secret of his concerns about UK efforts to unpick parts of the Brexit trade deal with the EU relating to Northern Ireland.

Downing Street yesterday refused to say whether the Government believes it can strike a deal before the crucial midterm elections in the US in November next year.

But Mr Johnson will try to smooth the path to a deal during talks with Congressional leaders in Washington today.

The PM will also meet with Vice-President Kamala Harris before seeing Mr Biden in the evening.

Mr Johnson will today become only the second European leader to visit Mr Biden at the White House, following Angela Merkel’s trip in July.

The President was scathing about Mr Johnson during his election campaign in 2019, describing him as a ‘physical and emotional clone’ of President Trump.

However, the two men appeared to strike up a decent working relationship during the G7 summit in Cornwall in June.

But Mr Johnson acknowledged they had not yet formed the deep bond sometimes seen between British PMs and US Presidents in the past.

When asked about the personal relations between the two men, Mr Johnson said: ‘Look, I’ve only had long conversations with Joe Biden either on the phone or at Carbis Bay and then Nato.

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‘It hasn’t been a relationship that’s been very long in gestation. But it’s terrific, I mean genuinely terrific. We see eye to eye on all sorts of things.

‘Have we bonded over any particular thing? He’s a bit of a train nut, as am I. He likes trains, which is a good thing.’

Mr Johnson said relationships with the US were ‘about as good as they have been at any time in decades’.

And that a number of ‘pebbles in the shoe’ had been removed in recent years, particularly on trade.

He also pointed to the formation of the new AUKUS security pact agreed last week. The deal commits the UK and US to assisting Australia in countering the threat posed by China.

Mr Johnson is also expected to try to patch up the relationship with President Biden over Afghanistan today.

The PM is said to have felt ‘let down’ over the rapid withdrawal, which saw the Taliban seize power.

But US diplomatic sources said Mr Johnson had work to do after ‘whingeing in public’.

One said the decision to withdraw had first been made by Mr Trump following negotiations with the Taliban which were not opposed by the UK.

 

Boris Johnson tells Brazil’s anti-vaxxer President Jair Bolsonaro to get some AstraZeneca in him – and gets a finger-wagging for his troubles

Boris Johnson urged Brazil’s anti-vaxxer President Jair Bolsonaro to get the AstraZeneca vaccine as he hailed its success in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

During a meeting in New York on Monday, the Prime Minister told the Brazilian leader, who has previously claimed Covid jabs could turn people into crocodiles, that AstraZeneca was a ‘great vaccine’ and he had received two doses himself. 

But Mr Bolsonaro was quick to respond to the Prime Minister’s comments by wagging his finger and replying ‘not yet’. 

As the pair met inside the British Consulate General’s residence, Mr Johnson told the Brazilian leader: ‘I promised to come to Brazil but then we had Covid but we’re working together with the vaccine.’

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He then went on to challenge the Brazilian president’s stance on vaccines and said: ‘AstraZeneca, it’s a great vaccine. I have AstraZeneca!’

As the press were ushered out of the grand room, Mr Johnson added: ‘Thanks everybody, get AstraZeneca. I’ve had it twice.’ 

However Mr Bolsonaro pointed at himself and wagged his finger before replying ‘not yet’ through an interpreter. 

During their meeting the two leaders discussed their own fights against coronavirus infections, before Mr Bolsonaro said he had developed ‘excellent’ immunity to the disease.  

Both men were joined by the new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

Last year, Mr Bolsonaro was met with criticism after he lashed out at coronavirus vaccines and claimed the Pfizer jab could turn people into crocodile and also lead to women growing facial hair.

The Brazilian leader said: ‘In the Pfizer contract, it’s very clear: ”We’re not responsible for any side effects.”If you turn into a crocodile, that’s your problem.’

He continued: ‘If you become superhuman, if a woman starts to grow a beard or if a man starts to speak with an effeminate voice, they [Pfizer] won’t have anything to do with it.’ 

Mr Bolsonaro, who recovered from Covid-19 last year, has insisted on a number of occasions that he will not receive a vaccine. 

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He previously said: ‘Some people say I’m giving a bad example. But to the imbeciles, to the idiots that say this, I tell them I’ve already caught the virus, I have the antibodies, so why get vaccinated?’       

Mr Bolsonaro has recently been the subject of international criticism for his moves to roll back legal protection for the Amazon rainforest, accelerating deforestation.

During the flight to New York, Mr Johnson told reporters: ‘I think it’s in the long-term interests of Brazil and the people of Brazil to recognise the spectacular natural inheritance, the endowment that they have, and to conserve that and I’m sure President Bolsonaro agrees with that.’

Earlier today Mr Johnson also lashed out at the world’s leading economic nations as he accused them of doing ‘nowhere near enough’ to tackle climate change.

The Prime Minister said he was ‘increasingly frustrated’ at the ‘vast’ gap between promises and action.

Addressing a roundtable at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Mr Johnson said ‘too many major economies… are lagging too far behind’ when it comes to reducing harmful emissions.

The comments came as the UK prepares to host the crunch UN Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow in November.

Later, speaking to reporters in New York he stressed the need for wealthy countries to cough up.

‘It is the developing world that is bearing the brunt of catastrophic climate change in the form of hurricanes and fires and floods and the real long-term economic damage that they face,’ he said.

‘And yet it’s the developed world that over 200 years has put the carbon in the atmosphere that is causing this acceleration of climate change. So it really is up to us to help them.’ 

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