Boris Johnson set for debut on global stage at G7 summit
Boris Johnson warned Brexit critics they are “gravely mistaken” about the UK losing its place on the world stage as he prepared for his first international summit and trade talks with Donald Trump.
The Prime Minister will meet the US President in the margins of the G7 summit in Biarritz for their first face-to-face discussion since he entered Downing Street.
The meeting of leaders from major economies will also see Mr Johnson set out his plans for Brexit in talks with European Council Donald Tusk, building on visits in recent days to the leaders of Germany and France.
Ahead of the summit, which begins on Saturday and continues until Monday, Mr Johnson said: “Some people question the democratic decision this country has made, fearing that we will retreat from the world. Some think Britain’s best days are behind us.
“To those people I say: you are gravely mistaken.”
His comments will be seen as a rebuke to Emmanuel Macron after the French president suggested that a post-Brexit trade deal with the US could see Britain as a “junior partner” in a position of “historic vassalisation”.
Mr Johnson will meet the US President – who has repeatedly praised his leadership qualities – on Sunday morning.
The pair spoke on the phone on Friday evening ahead of their meeting, their fourth official phone call since Mr Johnson took office a month ago and the second call this week.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “They discussed topics on the agenda for the summit, including foreign policy issues and global trade.”
The UK wants protections for the NHS and animal welfare standards in any deal, but also wants it to cover potentially thorny issues for the US including opening up agricultural markets, services and public procurement.
Senior Trump administration officials are “very enthusiastic” about the prospect of a trade deal – or a series of mini agreements – and want to make progress quickly.
But the British side is adamant it wants to secure the right deal rather than a quick agreement, even though it is seen as a major post-Brexit prize.
A UK Government spokesman said: “Of course we want to move quickly, but we want to get the right deal that works for both sides.”
Despite the desire for a trade deal and the close relationship between the two leaders, the UK and US are split over major international issues.
The UK remains committed the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate change accord, both of which Mr Trump has pulled out of, and it also has concerns over the US-China trade dispute.
In his first face-to-face meeting with European Council president Mr Tusk, the Prime Minister will spell out his absolute commitment to getting the UK out of the European Union on October 31.
It follows talks with Angela Merkel on Wednesday and Mr Macron on Thursday after which the Prime Minister said the “mood music” was positive, but getting the changes he wants to the Withdrawal Agreement would not be easy and he was “telling people not to hold their breath” for a breakthrough.
Issues on the agenda at the G7 include the global economy, tackling inequality and responding to the challenges of the digital age and the rise of artificial intelligence.
Mr Macron has also called for leaders to address the destruction in the Amazon, telling the G7 “our house is burning”.
Mr Johnson said the UK would “never flinch” from its responsibilities as a leading international nation and part of the G7 – which also comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
He said: “My message to G7 leaders this week is this: the Britain I lead will be an international, outward-looking, self-confident nation.
“We will be an energetic partner on the world stage. We will stand alongside our G7 allies to solve the most pressing international issues.
“As a family of nation-states we must reaffirm our core beliefs. Universal values, underpinned by democracy, serve to deliver global prosperity.
“Britain will never flinch from the special responsibilities that go with being a pillar and an architect of the international system.”
With Mr Trump at odds with the rest of the G7 over so many international issues, the last gathering in Canada ended in a row with the US President disowning the joint communique agreed at the meeting.
To avoid that happening again, as the host leader Mr Macron has said there will be no final communique, arguing that no one reads the statements anyway.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “The UK should use its position in the G7, on the UN Security Council and the international financial institutions to promote policies to tackle the climate emergency and that are proven to reduce inequality and improve lives around the world, including universal healthcare, education and social security.
“Instead, this weekend we’ll see the ugly spectacle of our Prime Minister pursuing his Trump First policy, putting us at the mercy of a US administration that threatens peace, prosperity and the future of our planet.”