Keir Starmer wins Joe Biden's backing to act as transatlantic 'knot' as leaders joke about football

Keir Starmer wins Joe Biden's backing to act as transatlantic 'knot' as leaders joke about football

Sir Keir Starmer won White House backing to serve as a leadership bridge between the United States and Europe as the new Prime Minister made clear that there is no lessening in the UK’s multibillion-pound support for Ukraine.

After meeting both US President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky on the margins of a Nato summit in Washington, the Labour PM was to tell the 32-nation gathering on Thursday that the leaders must all send a “clear message” to Vladimir Putin.

Sir Keir stressed to President Zelensky that Ukraine’s armed forces can decide for themselves how to deploy UK-supplied Storm Shadow missiles, “in accordance with international humanitarian law” and for “defensive purposes”.

That does not rule out Kyiv using the 155-mile precision-guided weapons to strike targets inside Russia.

Asked about the risk of Russian retaliation against Britain, Security Minister Dan Jarvis told Sky News: “Of course, we’ve got to be incredibly careful.”

The former Parachute Regiment major added: “But what’s most important is that in concert with our Nato allies, we work together to make sure that President Zelensky and Ukraine have got the material support they need to defend themselves against Russia.

“It is an illegal invasion, the consequences of which are massive for the whole world,” Mr Jarvis added, as he insisted that Labour is offering a “cast-iron guarantee” to raise defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP once the economy allows and pending the results of a newly announced strategic review.

Meeting the president in the Oval Office during his first full week in office, Sir Keir said his high-powered visit was an opportunity to “recommit to Nato, to recommit to the special relationship”, which he called “stronger now than ever”.

The Prime Minister has used his time in Washington to reforge alliances including with his centre-left ally in Germany, Olaf Scholz, as the Government bids to craft a new post-Brexit relationship with the European Union.

Mr Biden told the new PM: “I kind of see you guys as the knot tying the transatlantic alliance together, the closer you are with Europe. We know where you are, you know where we are.”

Following England’s dramatic qualification for the Euro 2024 final, the president also quipped that “it’s all because of the Prime Minister”.

Asked by a reporter if football is coming home, Sir Keir said: “It looks like it.”