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Johnson welcomes Biden’s inauguration as a ‘step forward’ after ‘bumpy period’

Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent
·4 min read

Boris Johnson has welcomed the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States as a “step forward” after a “bumpy period” for the nation.

The Prime Minister heralded Mr Biden’s succession from Donald Trump on Wednesday as an opportunity for the UK to collaborate on climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, two crises the Republican played down.

Mr Biden pledged to rebuild international alliances as he was sworn in during what the Democrat called a day of “renewal” for the bitterly divided US.

He declared “democracy has prevailed” as he took over the White House after four years of a Republican presidency that tested the nation’s principles, as well as international relations.

“This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day in history and hope, of renewal and resolve,” Mr Biden said.

But he noted that “the world is watching” as he took the oath of office in Capitol Hill, the scene of a violent insurrection from Trump loyalists just two weeks ago.

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States (Andrew Harnik/AP)

“Here’s my message to those beyond our borders. America has been tested and we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges,” Mr Biden said.

“And will lead not merely by example of our power but by the power of our example. We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress and security.”

At 78, Mr Biden became the oldest president to take office but in a more significant moment of history making, Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president.

She is the first woman to become vice president, as well as the first black person and the first person of South Asian descent to serve in the role.

The Prime Minister, who had a close but at times strained relationship with Mr Trump, tweeted his “congratulations” to Mr Biden on being sworn in as well as to Ms Harris “on her historic inauguration”.

“When you look at the issues that unite me and Joe Biden, the UK and the United States right now, there’s a fantastic joint common agenda,” Mr Johnson added to reporters.

“It’s a fantastic thing for America, a step forward for the country that has been through a bumpy period.

“And for us and America it’s a big moment.”

Joe Biden bumps fists with former president Barack Obama during Mr Biden’s inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington
Joe Biden bumps fists with former president Barack Obama (Jonathan Ernst/Pool Photo via AP)

Mr Johnson has said he looks forward to welcoming Mr Biden this year to the G7 summit in Cornwall and the Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow.

Mr Biden will on his first day issue a series of executive actions as he begins overturning some of his predecessor’s legacy.

In actions that will be welcomed by Mr Johnson, the president will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organisation.

Taking the helm of the nation with the highest Covid-19 death toll in the world, Mr Biden accepted the scale of the challenge ahead of him after what he described as a “winter of peril”.

He called on Americans to “end this uncivil war” that exploited divisions, declaring that “unity is the path forward”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The US begins a new chapter in its history, one of hope, decency, compassion and strength. Together, our two nations can build a better, more optimistic future for our world.”

The Queen sent a private message to Mr Biden before he was sworn into office, Buckingham Palace said

Tens of thousands of troops lined Washington DC’s streets for the high-security ceremony attended by former presidents George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Mr Bush’s presence as well as outgoing vice president Mike Pence’s ensured it was a bipartisan affair, even if Mr Trump became the first president since 1869 to snub his successor’s inauguration.

Mr Trump – awaiting his second impeachment trial, one which may prevent him from ever running for public office again – flew to Florida, where he will take residence at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

In farewell remarks, the property mogul and TV personality hinted at a possible political return, saying that “we will be back in some form”.