London – President Biden was at Westminster Hall here Sunday to look over the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, his first formal act of condolences during a short trip to Britain. United Kingdom to attend the funeral of Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
When he stepped up to his coffin Biden breathed deeply before making the gesture of the cross and then placing his hands over his heart. In the course of the visit, the president and the first lady Jill Biden became the most recent — and high of the guests to the royal burial state, which has attracted thousands of people waiting in lines that stretched over miles.
“She was the same in person as her image,” Biden stated on Sunday, after signing a book of condolences for her. “Decent, honorable, and all about service.”
Biden’s schedule is scrutinized by the British public, right from his flight in Air Force One on Saturday evening, to which British officials he selects to speak with, through his usage of the presidential limousine, known as “The Beast” while other world leaders are forced to travel on buses.
With the new Charles III, King Charles III, and a recently installed prime minister Liz Truss, the United Kingdom is going through an unpredictably “extremely rare” period of transition in its political system and Britons believe in a “special relationship” between the United Kingdom and the United States as an opportunity for stability and continuity, according to Brian Klass, associate professor of global politics at University College London.
White House officials said Biden’s visit is primarily an expression of respect for Queen Elizabeth II and for the British people, rather than an official or diplomatic trip, even though this gathering of many heads of state and officials could bring up a variety of global flashpoints and raise tensions among London as well as Washington.
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Biden was originally included on the group of international leaders whom the British government had said Truss would have a meeting with prior to the funeral, however, Biden was not on the list. The White House said Saturday that the gathering would be held in the coming week, at United Nations General Assembly in New York.
In the past week, White House aides had refused to lay out an agenda of policy objectives or even anticipate any diplomatic meeting. “The main reason to go to London, of course, is to pay our respects to the queen and to the royal family and to the people of Great Britain,” White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Friday. “That’s the main purpose of the visit. I don’t have any other meetings to speak to right now.”
Biden’s U.K. itinerary was released after hours the itinerary did not include meetings with officials who are not part of members of the Royal family. Along with attending Westminster Hall on Sunday, Biden signed the official condolence book to the queen and was also present at an event for world leaders held by King Charles III at Buckingham Palace. The first lady was also present at each of the functions in a small American group that doesn’t contain any of the former U.S. presidents.
He is scheduled to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey on Monday before returning to Washington and beginning the high-stakes diplomatic week during the United Nations. White House aides say Biden will not make a decision until his appearance at the General Assembly, which he will be attending on Tuesday in New York starting Tuesday, to promote his foreign policy ideas to the world’s leaders.
It’s probably the best option, considering the sensitivity about politics during the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, Klass said. “There would be a lot of downside in Biden making this visit about policy because this is supposed to be about the queen,” the senator stated. “I think the trip will be extremely risk-averse. There’s no upside to rocking the boat.”
However, this president has previously been chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and often boasts about the relationships he’s developed with foreign officials over his fifty-year tenure in public life It is not easy to refrain from discussing policy in the presence of his colleagues from around the world.
The gathering of such world leaders, including leaders who hail from France, Germany, India, Poland, and China -has already led to discussions on issues such as Russia’s incursion into Ukraine and the persistently high inflation across the globe, and China’s expanding sphere of influence as well as colonialism, climate change and the threat to the democratic process around the world. A lot of faces in the mourners are familiar that the president knows.
“I’ve known every major world leader in the last 40 years,” Biden declared in a commencement speech held at South Carolina State University in December, repeating his favorite phrase. “I’ve spoken to over 140 heads of state since I’ve become president.”
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Although Biden has had a conversation with Truss he hasn’t yet had a personal meeting with the 47-year-old premier who was elected on the 1st of January. It is not common to have an American president travel to the United Kingdom without meeting with the prime minister. However, the reasons for this trip which include attending the funeral of a Queen who ruled for 70 years are also not very common. It is possible that Biden and Truss may meet on chance since they’ll attend many similar events in London.
Truss took a hardline policy towards Russia and its resentment towards Ukraine and Ukraine, a position that is in line with the position Biden has demanded to hear from foreign partners. On other issues, like an agreement post-Brexit on Northern Ireland and a potential trade agreement with both the United Kingdom and the United States Truss’s stance does not seem to align as closely as Biden’s position.
By avoiding these potential conflict points on the tour, Biden would be aiming to show that he is in support of the British people, who will take time to remember and mourn Elizabeth who mostly avoided politics.
Biden stated on his wife, who was with him for tea in the past season in Windsor Castle, reminded him of his mother through her manner of hugging him while leaning over. “She had that look like, ‘Are you okay, anything I can do for you, anything you need?’ ” Biden said. “But also, ‘Make sure you do what you’re supposed to do.’ “
The president altered his schedule to be present at the funeral, changing the time of his address for that of the United States from Tuesday to Wednesday. Although Biden has lesser aides than normal and is not scheduled for formal bilateral meetings or press conferences His arrival in Washington complete with the pomp and circumstance of the American president will surely impress those who are looking for clues to the state of relations between the U.K.-U.S. relations.
Other international leaders were highly urged by government officials British government to abandon their private jets and swap their limousines with shuttle buses partly due to the logistical issues in accommodating the large diplomatic entourages. Biden however, was greeted with a warm welcome when he arrived in London with Air Force One and traveled with a motorcade comprising a minimum of 15 vehicles.
The White House said the official invitation to the United States to attend the funeral was reserved for Biden as well as the First Lady. Queen Elizabeth passed away on September. 8, aged 96. Biden is the thirteenth U.S. president she had known during a presidency that stretched over seven years.
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