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Rishi Sunak tries to polish the UK’s global credentials on the trip to Washington


Rishi Sunak will fly to Washington on Tuesday for a two-day mission to prove that Britain remains a major player on the global stage after the UK’s recent political and economic shocks.

The British Prime Minister will meet with Joe Biden, hoping to convince the US President that Britain is playing a key role in global security and forging a regulatory framework for artificial intelligence.

But the EU and the US, the west’s two big power blocs, are already discussing ways to regulate AI and the UK’s Labor opposition argues that Britain has become less relevant in Washington.

Biden and Sunak had a rocky start to their relationship – exacerbated by Brexit and its impact on Northern Ireland – with the US president apparently baffled by the UK’s political unrest last year.

Biden last October hailed “Rashid Sanook” as Britain’s third prime minister in a year, claiming he had to travel to Belfast in April to make sure the “Brits don’t mess” with the North peace process -Ireland.

But the meeting in Washington will be the fifth since Sunak became prime minister, and diplomats say relations have warmed, with Ukraine bringing the two old allies closer together.

“The UK remains one of our strongest and closest allies,” said Amanda Sloat, senior director for Europe at the National Security Council, during Biden’s recent visit to Northern Ireland. “It’s honestly hard to think of a problem in the world where we don’t work closely with the British.”

Wanting his meeting with Biden to focus on security in the broadest sense, Sunak on Monday reiterated his plea for British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace to become NATO’s next secretary-general.

The Prime Minister described Wallace as “widely respected among his peers around the world, especially for the role he has played in Ukraine”, and said Britain was a major contributor to the alliance.

Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian incumbent, will step down at the end of September and a replacement will be chosen at the NATO leaders’ summit in Vilnius next month.

But with just five weeks to go, there’s no clarity on who that might be — so far Biden hasn’t named a preferred candidate. Most NATO officials say allies prefer a female candidate or a candidate from Eastern Europe, after decades of Northern European males.

Wallace should win Biden’s backing as well as the backing of Paris, which is seen as lukewarm towards the first post-Brexit secretary-general who is British.

However, the leading women tipped for the role – Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland – come from countries that traditionally fall far short of spending 2 percent of national production on defence, a minimum goal of the government. NATO.

Sunak will raise the issue of AI regulation as another major security issue, arguing that the UK can play a “leading” role in setting up a framework for the industry.

However, the US and EU are already discussing a voluntary code of conduct for AI and the issue is a test of whether Sunak can prove that Brexit has enabled Britain to take an “agile” and innovative approach to regulating new technologies. technology.

Britain’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, on a visit to Washington last month, claimed that Sunak’s government had made itself less relevant by criticizing “protectionist” Biden’s $369 billion green subsidy plan, the Inflation Reduction Act.

Sunak’s allies say the prime minister is likely to take a more lenient tone on the green subsidy issue.

Kemi Badenoch, the British trade secretary, has urged Washington to ensure that British companies operating in US supply chains can benefit from the subsidies. Other Western allies are making similar demands.

In March the US and Japan signed an agreement on critical mineral supply chains, with Tokyo expecting to receive tax breaks from the IRA for battery components and critical raw materials used in electric vehicles.

Lord Kim Darroch, former British ambassador to Washington, said Sunak would arrive with a heavy political baggage that has complicated the team-Atlantic relationship.

“I’ve never met a Democrat who thought Brexit was a good idea,” Darroch said. “They hated Brexit because they felt it went against the trends of world history and it cost them their main channel to the EU.”

But he added: “A saving grace has been Ukraine. Whatever else they thought of Boris Johnson – and sometimes they thought he was showing off – they felt we gave more to Ukraine than the rest of Europe. That has restored some credibility in Washington.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday that Biden hoped to deepen “the close and historic relationship and partnership” between the UK and the US.

Biden is expected to return to the UK for a state visit after accepting an invitation from King Charles III in April.

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