Boris Johnson and President Joe Biden meet ahead of the three-day G7 Summit (Image: AFP via Getty Images)
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Walking hand-in-hand with their wives underneath the cliffside of Cornwall, today's meeting between Boris Johnson and Joe Biden got off to a fittingly rocky start.
Tensions between the pair have threatened to bubble over ahead of this week's G7 summit, after the US president ordered a furious rebuke to the Prime Minister for inflaming tensions in Northern Ireland.
The extraordinary diplomatic move – used more often between rivals than allies – follows the trade row sparked by Brexit – and could prove an existential threat to the UK and US' 'special relationship'.
The famous phrase, first coined by Winston Churchill, is not said to be a favourite of Mr Johnson, who confirmed just weeks ago he sees it as "needy and weak".
President Biden, meanwhile, once claimed that Mr Johnson is a "physical and emotional clone" of Donald Trump.
So how tense will the relationship between the two world leaders prove to be – and where might they find common ground?
Biden's 'grave concern' over Brexit tensions
The Prime Minister will attempt to strike a conciliatory at Friday's G7 summit, which he has described as a "great moment for the UK".
The landmark event will be the first face-to-face meeting of the seven global leaders for two years, with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel among those flying in to Cornwall Airport Newquay.
Boris Johnson and wife Carrie Johnson walk with President Biden and wife Jill at Carbis Bay, Cornwall
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
President Biden, however, has set out his stall early over the Northern Ireland issue.
Previously, he has spoken proudly of his Irish heritage and was a firm supporter of Britain remaining in the European Union.
His rebuke follows Mr Johnson's agreement to put Northern Ireland under EU rules as part of his Brexit deal – before claiming EU checks on goods coming over from Britain were unfair.
The rising tensions have contributed to threats against port staff and the resignation of First Minister Arlene Foster.
The president appears to be taking a firm stance early in his relationship with the Prime Minister – signalling he sees the Northern Ireland problem as a key red line.
Yael Lempert, a senior official at the US Embassy in London, reportedly told Britain’s Brexit chief Lord Frost that the UK government was “inflaming” tensions in the region.
She spoke of President Biden’s “great concern” and “slowly and gravely read her instructions aloud” in the June 3 meeting, according to The Times.
The newspaper reported that government minutes of the meeting said: "Lempert implied that the UK had been inflaming the rhetoric, by asking if he would keep it 'cool'."
If they are to establish a working relationship, Mr Johnson will be under mounting pressure to appease Mr Biden's concerns.
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Channelling spirit of 'special relationship' in Second World War
The pair appear to be finding more common ground elsewhere, with the UK and US keen to strike a new Atlantic Charter inspired by their predecessors' pact during the Second World War.
Downing Street confirmed the news after months of preparations by officials, who have been drawing up an agreement similar to that signed by Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt nearly 80 years ago.
Carrie Johnson wore a summery red dress as she met the US president today
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
The August 14, 1941 document outlined British and American goals for after the end of the Second World War – and the new pact will underpin shared commitments on pressing international issues.
It will commit the UK and US to apply their combined powers to the huge challenges facing the planet today, including global defence and security, "building back better" from coronavirus, and tackling climate change.
The PM has been particularly impressed by the new president's green credentials – a sharp departure from the administration of Donald Trump – and has hailed his decision to re-join the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Speaking after their first phone call, a spokesman for Mr Johnson said: "The Prime Minister praised President Biden's early action on tackling climate change and commitment to reach net zero by 2050."
Mr Johnson will also be heartened by Mr Biden's tough stance on Vladimir Putin, in comparison to Mr Trump's more chummy relationship.
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The president this week warned Russia that it faces "robust and meaningful" consequences if it engages in "harmful activities".
The UK government said earlier this year that Russia was its "most acute threat" after a series of cyber attacks and the nerve agent attacks in Salisbury in 2018.
'Woke' gaffe and bonding over trains
Mr Johnson and Mr Biden's personal relationship got off to a tricky start just hours after the president took the oath of office in January.
Asked by Sky News whether he thought his counterpart was "woke", Mr Johnson awkwardly dodged the question.
"I can't comment on that," he said. "What I know is that he's a firm believer in the transatlantic alliance and that's a great thing.
"And a believer in a lot of the things that we want to achieve together."
President Biden warned Russia against 'harmful activities' ahead of the G7 summit
Mr Johnson said there is "nothing wrong with being woke", but added: "I put myself in the category of people who believe that it's important to stick up for your history, your traditions and your values, the things you believe in."
During their first phone call together, however, the pair are said to have found some unlikely common interests.
According to The Sun, they bonded over a love of trains and who stole the 'build back better' slogan.
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The Prime Minster is said to have told the president that his election "sparked a mood of optimism in the world that American leadership is back".
Mr Biden could be forgiven for reading the compliment as a subtle dig at his predecessor – even if it came from the 'British Trump'.
The Carrie factor
Mr Johnson may have a secret weapon as he attempts to curry favour with the president – in the form of his new wife, Carrie Symonds.
The former Tory aide is set to play a key role at the G7 summit, hosting all of the leader's spouses, but will meet the First Lady Jill Biden personally for tea.
The new Mrs Johnson has already proved a powerful voice within Downing Street, with sources previously claiming she plays an active role in managing her husband's reputation.
After Dominic Cummings resigned as the PM's top aide, he accused the 33-year-old of being "desperate" to get rid of him.
In February, Treasury sources claimed she was backing ministers who thought Mr Cummings' heavy-handed treatment of ministers, officials and journalists was harming the Prime Minister's image.
If she can bond with Mrs Biden, the former PR expert will no doubt prove a valuable ally at her husband's side.
Indeed, the two leaders seemed to at least agree on one thing today, with the president telling reporters: "I told the Prime Minister we have something in common. We both married way above our stations."