Starmer gives Biden Arsenal shirt to cement ‘very special’ relationship with US

By David Hughes, PA Political Editor in Washington

Sir Keir Starmer will present Joe Biden with a personalised Arsenal shirt when the pair meet at the White House.

The shirt, with Mr Biden’s surname and the number 46 – a reference to his presidential number – will be handed over by UK officials to White House aides.

The Labour leader is an Arsenal season ticket holder and he hopes the personalised present will help strengthen what he called the the “very special relationship” between the UK and US on Wednesday.

Joe Biden, left, posing for photos with Sir Keir Starmer, centre, and Jens Stoltenberg
The two world leaders alongside Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg (Stefan Rousseau/PA) Photo by Stefan Rousseau

A senior Downing Street official said: “It’s his team and he thought it would make a personal gift.”

The UK prime minister will also give the US leader a copy of the Atlantic Charter which paved the way for the formation of Nato, complete with then Labour leader Clement Attlee’s amendments.

The new prime minister met the US president for the first time at the Nato summit in Washington before their talks in the White House later.

The president, 81, is seeking re-election in November despite discontent within the Democrat ranks about his suitability due to his age and concerns about his health.

Mr Starmer, who has proposed forcing peers to retire from the House of Lords at 80, sidestepped a suggestion that meant Mr Biden was too old, instead insisting he was motivated by reducing the size of the Upper Chamber.

Mr Starmer told reporters accompanying him on his first international trip as prime minister: “I’ve already had a phone call with President Biden.

“I want to follow up on that, this is obviously a very special relationship we have between the UK and the US.

“We have, within that, a special aspect when it comes to defence and security for obvious reasons including our commitment to Nato.

“We make a unique contribution in Europe to Nato and therefore it’s a very good opportunity for me to talk to the President about how we take forward the important work at this summit.”

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer joins US President Joe Biden and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and other Nato leaders for a family photograph at the Nato 75th anniversary summit
UK prime minister Sir Keir Starmer joins US president Joe Biden and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and other Nato leaders for a family photograph at the Nato 75th anniversary summit (Stefan Rousseau/PA) Photo by Stefan Rousseau

Asked whether he believed his plan for peers to retire at 80 should apply across the board, Mr Starmer said: “In terms of the age in the House of Lords, the simple fact is that our House of Lords is massive.

“It’s the second biggest political chamber in the world. I think it’s only the Chinese who have a bigger political chamber than our House of Lords, we have to reduce it.

“That is the primary driver of the retirement at 80. You can see why that needs to be done.

“We’ve got 800-plus members of the House of Lords, it’s simply too big. We need to reduce it.

“So it doesn’t reflect on how other elected representatives are chosen in other countries, it’s to do with the size of the House of Lords.”

UK foreign secretary David Lammy, who accompanied Sir Keir on the trip to Washington, met his US counterpart Antony Blinken.

The State Department said the pair “re-affirmed the importance of ensuring Ukraine has the economic, security, and humanitarian assistance it needs to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

They also “discussed the need to reach a ceasefire in Gaza that secures the release of hostages and lays the groundwork for durable peace”.

John Healey, the new defence secretary, also met his counterpart Lloyd Austin.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Mr Austin shared a photograph of the two men together, but misspelled the UK Cabinet minister’s name as “Secretary Healy”.

“Our shared ideals are at the heart of the US-UK special relationship. I look forward to working closely with my new UK counterpart to tackle today’s security challenges,” the US defence secretary added.