British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will hold talks with U.S. President Joe Biden next week when they will discuss improving economic ties and how to sustain military support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.
Sunak will be in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday next week for meetings with Biden, members of Congress and U.S. business leaders, but there will no talks about a formal free trade deal, Sunak’s spokesman said on Tuesday.
“The visit will be an opportunity to build on the discussions that the prime minister and President Biden have had in recent months about enhancing the level of cooperation and coordination between the UK and U.S. on the economic challenges that will define our future,” the spokesman said.
“There will also be an opportunity to discuss issues including sustaining our support for Ukraine.”
Sunak, who will be on his first official visit to Washington since he was appointed prime minister in October, wants to forge better relations with the U.S. after they were strained by Britain’s departure from the European Union in 2020.
In April, a White House official was forced to deny Biden was “anti-British” after he spent over half a day in the British province of Northern Ireland before he travelled south to the Irish Republic for two-and-a-half days of meetings.
The Biden administration has shown little interest in negotiating a free-trade agreement with the United Kingdom, which British supporters of leaving the EU once touted as one of the main benefits of its departure from the bloc.
Discussions had progressed during former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, before Biden came to power and then the talks stalled.
Sunak’s spokesman said on Tuesday there would not be talks about a free-trade agreement on this visit, but instead there would be a focus on reducing trade barriers in other ways such as agreements with individual states.
The White House said in a statement the two leaders would also discuss the situation in Northern Ireland, which has been without a devolved government for more than a year.
Britain’s relationship with the United States is partly built on close defence, intelligence, economic and cultural ties and the two sides are largely in lockstep in supporting Ukraine.
Sunak accepted Biden’s invitation to visit the White House in March when the two leaders met in San Diego to inaugurate the next phase of a submarine alliance between the United States, Britain, and Australia, known as AUKUS.
The two men appeared to get along well on that visit, with Biden noting that Sunak is a graduate of Stanford University and asking for a visit to the home he still owns in Santa Monica.