Boris Johnson this week confirmed that he doesn’t like to call the UK and United States’ close ties the “special relationship”, believing it makes Britain look “needy”.
But it appears Emmanuel Macron has no such concerns.
After the G7 summit got underway with an awkward “family photo” on the beach, the French president made a beeline for Joe Biden, throwing his arm around the American’s shoulders and beginning an animated discussion
The Frenchman’s remarks were inaudible, but Johnson – who was out ahead of the pair after Angela Merkel told him “you are the leader” – will be hoping Macron was not trying to lobby Biden on the Brexit sausage war that is threatening to overshadow the G7 meeting.
The vignette was one of several moments in which G7 leaders appeared uneasy at their first face-to-face meeting since the start of the Covid pandemic.
Biden at one point tried to break the tension, joking “everybody in the water” after leaders and their spouses were greeted with elbow bumps from Boris and Carrie Johnson on the beach at Carbis Bay in Cornwall.
After strolling down a lengthy walkway to the seafront, Jill Biden meanwhile joked that “I feel like we are at a wedding” while Johnson later agreed that it was like “walking down the aisle”.
Leaders then struggled to create any kind of bonhomie as they stood two metres apart for a family photo.
It's not as realistic as some of Anthony Gormley's earlier work, is it. pic.twitter.com/euLrN9RWNH
— Mick Hodgkin (@Mickhodgkin) June 11, 2021
“Everybody in the water,” Biden joked to his fellow leaders at the G7 family photo on the oceanfront in Carbis Bay, England.
Macron and Biden walked shoulder to shoulder, chatting, an arm draped around each other’s back. pic.twitter.com/CTpwa8gCjU
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) June 11, 2021
As the talks finally got underway inside around a familiar circular table, Johnson bemoaned the carefully choreographed photo op as a “media circus”.
“This is meant to be a fireside chat between the great democracies of the world,” the PM complained.
In an unusual move for Johnson, he also suggested the G7 should support a more “feminine” economic recovery.
"Building back better together… greener and building back fairer and building back more equal, in a more gender-neutral, perhaps a more feminine way"
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) June 11, 2021
The PM said the citizens of G7 nations “want us to be sure that we are beating the pandemic together and discussing how we will never have a repeat of what we have seen”.
“But also that we are building back better together and building back greener and building back fairer and building back more equal and… in a more gender neutral and perhaps a more feminine way.”
Johnson also appeared to criticise his own Conservative Party for the way it handled the recovery from the 2008 financial crash by taking power in 2010 and embarking on a programme of austerity.
He said the G7 economies had the potential to “bounce back very strongly” from Covid.
“But it is vital that we don’t repeat the mistake of the last great crisis, the last great economic recession of 2008 when the recovery was not uniform across all parts of society,” the PM said.
There was a risk the pandemic could leave a “lasting scar” as “inequalities may be entrenched”, Johnson said.
“We need to make sure that as we recover, we level up across our societies and we build back better,” he added.