Boris Johnson and Joe Biden look at the original Atlantic Charter

The document that started the ‘Special Relationship’: Boris Johnson and Joe Biden look at the original Atlantic Charter that sealed victorious WW2 pact between UK and USA

  • Atlantic Charter signed in 1941 by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt 
  • The document was start of the special relationship between Britain and the US 
  • Boris Johnson and Joe Biden are expected to hash out a new Atlantic Charter 

Boris Johnson and Joe Biden channeled their predecessors in Cornwall today as they examined copies of the 1941 Atlantic charter in their first meeting.  

The original charter was hammered out by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 and acted as a guiding blueprint for life after the Second World War.

The document cemented the bond between Britain and the US and was a pre-cursor to a 1946 speech from Churchill where he coined the term ‘special relationship’. 

The original accord was devised on board the Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales and US heavy cruiser USS Augusta off the coast of Newfoundland as Churchill and Roosevelt met face-to-face for the first time since the outbreak of the war. 

Today, in their first meeting since Mr Biden was elected and since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, the current US president and Mr Johnson poured over the 1941 charter.   

The two leaders are expected to hash out a new Atlantic Charter which Mr Johnson previously said will ‘form the foundation of a sustainable global Covid recovery’.   

Boris Johnson and President Joe Biden look at copies of the 1941 Atlantic Charter during their bilateral meeting in Carbis Bay, Cornwall

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill confer after church services aboard the battleship Prince of Wales during the Atlantic Conference where they hashed out the charter

The original Atlantic Charter took the form of a statement issued on August 14, 1941. 

In it, the leaders agreed that there were ‘certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future of the world’. 

Those principles included respecting the right of all people to ‘choose the form of government under which they will live’ as well as the pursuit of peace. 

The charter was the result of face-to-face talks between Roosevelt and Churchill and set out their post-Second World War goals. 

It set out eight points and joint principles on a range of issues like security, trade and peace. 

The two leaders said they ‘deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future of the world’.

The original charter is viewed as historically significant because it solidified the US-UK relationship as allies.

It also laid the groundwork for the creation of the United Nations and the NATO military alliance.

Its eight points including self-determination, the reduction of trade restrictions, and the disarmament of aggressor nations.

A month later, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia, the USSR and representatives from the government-in-exile of France also signed up to the principles of the document.

Boris Johnson and Joe Biden are expected to hash out a new Atlantic Charter which Mr Johnson previously said will ‘form the foundation of a sustainable global Covid recovery’

The two leaders appeared solemn as they examined copies of the original Atlantic Charter that led to the special relationship between the two countries

In January 1942, these countries among many others signed the Declaration by United Nations, which became the basis of the modern United Nations. 

Churchill and Roosevelt said in the charter that they hoped to ‘establish a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries’ and to allow people to live their lives ‘in freedom from fear and want’. 

Crucially the charter also said that ‘such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance’. 

It also committed the US and the UK to ensure all countries could enjoy access to trade and the world’s raw materials ‘on equal terms’ in order to boost economic prosperity.  

Churchill and Roosevelt wanted to ‘bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field’ with the goal of improving labour standards, economic advancement and better social security.  

Boris Johnson and Joe Biden will hope to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors and hash out a new Atlantic Charter. 

Mr Johnson said that ‘cooperation between the UK and US, the closest of partners and the greatest of allies, will be crucial for the future of the world’s stability and prosperity’.

He added: ‘Eighty years ago the US President and British Prime Minister stood together promising a better future. Today we do the same.’

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