PM to phone US president-elect Joe Biden shortly – Raab

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson (PA Wire)
12:19pm, Sun 08 Nov 2020
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Boris Johnson is set to get in touch with US president-elect Joe Biden “shortly”, according to the Foreign Secretary.

Dominic Raab said there had been contact between the Government and the successful Democratic campaign and confirmed he expected the Prime Minister to phone Mr Biden.

The Cabinet minister, asked on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show whether the Government had contacted the Biden team, said: “Funnily enough, I exchanged messages with Senator Coons (tipped to be the next US secretary of state), our embassy are in touch with the campaign and I’m sure there will be a call between the president-elect and the Prime Minister shortly in due course.

It comes after reports that Mr Johnson is “war-gaming” his first conversation with the next incumbent of the Oval Office as he prepares to offer to build a coalition with the US to tackle climate change and join up on their shared mantra to “build back better” after coronavirus.

Mr Johnson, according to the Sunday Times, is said to have joked with Downing Street officials that Mr Biden was “one of the few world leaders I haven’t insulted”.

The Prime Minister said on social media he was looking “forward to working closely together on our shared priorities, from climate change to trade and security” with Mr Biden now that he is set to be the leader of “our most important ally”.

But there could be work to do for Number 10 to prepare the relationship, however, after an aide of former president Barack Obama labelled the Prime Minister a “shapeshifting creep” following Mr Johnson’s tweet on Saturday.

Tommy Vietor, referencing Mr Johnson previously suggesting Mr Obama’s “part-Kenyan heritage” was behind his “ancestral dislike of the British empire”, said: “We will never forget your racist comments about Obama and slavish devotion to Trump.”

Mr Johnson has not met Mr Biden – a point commentators suggested ex-prime minister Theresa May was alluding to when she tweeted a photograph of her and the long-serving politician.

In December 2019, Mr Biden labelled the Prime Minister a “physical and emotional clone” of Mr Trump.

Labour’s shadow trade secretary Emily Thornberry predicted it would be “very difficult” for the Conservative Party leader to be “close to Joe Biden” after wooing the Trump administration since he came to Number 10 in 2019.

But Mr Raab dismissed suggestions that the former vice president’s previous criticism of Mr Johnson would impact the relationship between the two countries.

“We’re two years (sic) on from that and I thought it was very interesting hearing from Senator Coons that he’s not interested, and he doesn’t think that the administration are going to be interested in relitigating old issues… what he’s looking for, what the Americans will be looking for, I’m sure, is the opportunities of the future.”

Mr Raab said that “in principle, yes, of course” all votes should be counted in a democratic election having failed to make such a statement when Mr Trump had been calling for states to stop counting mail-in ballots last week.

Defending his own congratulatory tweet for saying there were “processes still playing out”, the former Brexit secretary said it was “right to tread carefully and sensitively” after a fraught election but stated there had been a “definitive result”.

Asked on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday whether he was fuelling conspiracists with his response, Mr Raab said: “No, I think that’s a very partisan skew on it. The reality is we want to respect the integrity and processes in place.

“People complain about interference in our politics here – I think it is right to tread carefully and sensitively, particularly after what was clearly a very close election, far closer than the media or the pundits expected, and has been contentious in all sorts of ways.

“So, we proceeded sensitively and carefully, we wanted to respect the process, but we look forward to working with the new administration.”

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