Starmer’s Washington Debut: A Reset in Global Relations

UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer is jetting off to Washington this week for his first steps on the world stage, marking his debut foreign trip since becoming British leader last Friday. The visit coincides with NATO’s 75th anniversary summit, where Starmer will reaffirm Britain’s enduring support for the Western military alliance and Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression. This trip signifies the beginning of a whirlwind of international diplomacy for Starmer, with the UK also hosting a European leaders’ conference next week.

Starmer’s visit to Washington comes as he seeks to solidify his position as a leader on the global stage. He will be keen to demonstrate a commitment to continuity on key foreign policy issues while simultaneously signaling a reset in relations with allies that were strained by Brexit. Labour has pledged closer cooperation with European neighbours, including on bilateral deals with France and Germany as well as agreements with the EU bloc as a whole.

The trip presents an early opportunity for Starmer to build rapport with US President Joe Biden and cement the so-called UK-US special relationship. While Starmer’s centre-left Labour party is more closely aligned with Biden’s Democratic Party than the Conservatives, the visit comes at a sensitive time for the US president. Biden, 81, is facing pressure to make way for another Democrat to take on Republican rival Donald Trump in November’s presidential election. This means Starmer will have to be mindful of the possibility of dealing with the isolationist Trump from January next year.

Despite potential alignment with the Democratic Party, a point of contention between Starmer and Biden could be the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, with Labour viewed as more pro-Palestinian than Washington. The leaders are also likely to discuss policy towards China, encompassing trade, commerce, and technology.

Following his Washington visit, Starmer will host the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace, near Oxford, on July 18. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are expected to attend. Labour is aiming for an “ambitious” security pact with the European Union, and these summits offer an opportunity to provide concrete details for this proposal. Starmer may also seek to flesh out the shape of a post-Brexit trading deal, concluding his introduction to life on the global stage with a focus on international cooperation and a new era of British diplomacy.

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