By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are expected to agree to work to open up travel between the two countries “as soon as possible,” the British government said in a statement late on Wednesday.
Biden, who arrived in England on Wednesday for his first overseas trip as president, will meet with Johnson in Cornwall on Thursday ahead of a meeting of the leaders of the Group of Seven advanced economies that begins Friday, the statement said.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that the Biden administration was forming expert working groups with Britain, Canada, Mexico and the European Union to determine how best to safely restart travel after 15 months of pandemic restrictions.
U.S. and UK airline officials said they do not expect Washington to lift restrictions until around July 4 at the earliest.
Airlines and others have pressed the administration to lift the restrictions on most non-U.S. citizens who have been in Britain, the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.
The two leaders are expected to agree on an ambitious new “Atlantic Charter” modeled on the one signed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941 that set out their goals for the post-war world.
The new charter maps out plans for close cooperation in eight areas, including “defending democracy, building a fair and sustainable trading system, dealing with cyber attacks, combating climate change and ending the coronavirus pandemic.
One key goal will be resuming safe travel, the UK statement said. Before the pandemic, more than 5 million Britons visited the United States and more than 4.5 million Americans visited Britain every year – more than any other country.
A new travel task force would make recommendations on safely reopening travel and ensuring that Britain and the United States work closely on international travel policy going forward.
“Links between the UK and US are not only crucial for our people, they create and sustain jobs across and throughout our two countries,” the statement said.