Biden calls British PM Sunak 'Mr President'

Biden calls British PM Sunak ‘Mr President’ in gaffe as they channel FDR and Churchill in White House talks: Rishi gives Joe a $400 Barbour jacket and book by his great-great grandfather in bid to warm Special Relationship

  • The British prime minister is on a mission to build better ties with Washington
  • The UK is trying to find a new place in the world after exiting the European Union
  • Sunak was meeting Biden for the fifth time since taking office in October 

President Joe Biden said the ‘Special Relationship was in ‘real good shape’ as he welcomed British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to a smoke-shrouded White House on Thursday.

It is the fifth time the two leaders have met since Sunak took office in October.

But Biden still managed to botch the introductions.

‘Well Mr. President,’ he began before correcting himself. ‘Mr President? I just demoted you.’

Sunak laughed off the gaffe as Biden continued: ‘Mr Prime Minister, it’s great to have you back.’  

Sunak is making his first visit to the White House. 

President Joe Biden welcomed British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to the White House on Thursday. They were due to discuss economic ties, Ukraine and artificial intelligence

Biden, 80, has been accused frequently of snubbing the United Kingdom in favor of Ireland, the land of his ancestors, and has botched the pronunciation of Sunak’s name in the past.

Sunak arrives on a mission to build better ties as his country seeks to find its new place in the world after leaving the European Union.

He came armed with gifts, presenting the president with a personalized waxed jacket. The $400 navy blue Bedale Barbour jacket was made near Sunak’s parliamentary constituency in north-east England.

He also presented the president with a copy of a book written by his British great-great grandfather.

‘Naval Discipline,’ was written by Christopher Biden in the mid 19th century and covers the Royal Navy’s rules on mutiny.

The president mentioned it in a speech during his visit to Northern Ireland in April.

However, U.S. officials have dashed hopes of a free trade agreement between Washington and London.

Instead their talks will focus on other forms of economic ties, the dangers of artificial intelligence and Ukraine. 

Sunak is making his first visit to the White House since taking office in October

Sunak was guest of honor at UK-US friendship night at the Washington Nationals game on Wednesday evening. It included a fly past of US and UK aircraft

‘And as we’ve done before, the US and the UK, have stood together to support Ukraine and stand up for the values of democracy and freedom and make sure that they prevail, as I know we will,’ said Sunak.

‘But also I completely agree with what you said, our economies are seeing, perhaps the biggest transformation since the Industrial Revolution, as new technologies provide incredible opportunities, but also give our adversaries more tools for harm.’

Biden brought up the history of the Oval Office, including the famous wartime meetings between wartime president and prime minister.

‘You know, Prime Minister Churchill and Roosevelt met here a little over seventy years ago,’ he said. ‘And they asserted that the strength of the partnership between Great Britain, the United States was the strength of the free world.’

He said there were dozens of stories about Churchill’s time visiting, and his habit of taking baths.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill (L) and President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House

Sunak continued: ‘Wandering around at three in the morning … Winston Churchill bothering Mrs. Roosevelt.’

‘Don’t worry. You won’t see me that bothering you and the first lady.

His government is keen to build better relations with Washington, forging closer economic ties as London finds its new place in the world after leaving the European Union.

After the turbulence  of recent years — when Theresa May, Boris Johnson, and Liz Truss all came and went from Number 10 in quick succession — Sunak is intent on portraying a more stable presence. 

British officials and ministers have also quietly been trying to shore up U.S. support for Ukraine, amid fears that America First Republicans in Congress could cut off the supply of arms and ammunition.

At the same time, Sunak’s defense secretary Ben Wallace is among the possible contenders to take over as N.A.T.O. secretary general when Jens Stoltenberg steps down. Sunak will know that U.S. backing is essential to win the post, raising questions about whether the prime minister plans to use his White House visit to lobby Biden.

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