Starmer excited about first meeting with Biden

image Caption, Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer speaks to reporters on a plane en route to the NATO summit in Washington, DC

Sir Keir Starmer will later have his first face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden at the White House.

Speaking on the plane, Sir Keir told reporters he hoped the bilateral meeting in Washington DC would be an opportunity to talk about NATO and the so-called UK-US special relationship.

“This is obviously a very special relationship between the UK and the US,” he said, adding that “there is a special aspect to this when it comes to defence and security, for obvious reasons, including our commitment to NATO.”

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He also told reporters the UK had made a “firm commitment” to spending 2.5% of national income on defence, but gave no timeframe for when this would be met.

A review of defence capabilities will be ordered by the new government, which will prepare a roadmap to reach the goals.

video caption, When will the UK commit to spending 2.5% on defence?

Defence Secretary John Healey said the review would help the government “address the threats we face, the capabilities we need for the future, and the state of our armed forces.”

When asked when the target would be met, he said the government needed a chance to “open the books and deal with the dire state of public finances.”

He said the defence review could not be carried out in a few weeks, but it would be done “properly” and “expeditiously”.

The Conservatives, who pledged during the election to achieve 2.5% growth by 2030, have said failure to set a timetable would cast “serious doubts” over the Government’s commitment to security.

Mr Haley is joined on the Prime Minister’s visit by Foreign Secretary David Lammy and European Relations Minister Nick Thomas-Symonds.

After arriving in Washington, Sir Keir and Mr Thomas-Symonds met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The Prime Minister also met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Sir Keir reiterated his support for Ukraine, saying: “The government has changed, but there has been no change in approach.”

He told BBC political editor Chris Mason that he had discussed with President Zelensky “what further support they need” and said they would use the NATO summit to “ensure that support is agreed.”

The British prime minister said he also wanted to “send a message to Putin” about NATO’s resolve, that it is “more united than ever” and “absolutely clear about the threat of Russian aggression”.

Mr Zelensky thanked Britain for “being with us from the very beginning of the war”.

While the prime minister is in Washington, more than 300 new MPs are being sworn in at Westminster, ready for the opening of parliament next week, when the programme for government will be laid out in the King’s Speech.

Sir Keir was asked during a visit to the US whether he believed the age restrictions being proposed by the Government for the House of Lords, which would force members to retire at the age of 80, should apply to all.

This would affect his peers such as the Labour Party’s Lord Alf Dubs, who came to Britain as a child after escaping the Nazis and is 91 years old and has long campaigned for refugee rights.

Sir Keir said: “We have over 800 members of the House of Lords – that’s a huge number.”

“We need to reduce it, so that it is not reflective of how other elected representatives are elected in other countries, as it relates to the size of the House of Lords.”


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