THE tension positively crackled as Prime Minister Boris Johnson shared an awkward looking handshake with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel at Buckingham Palace, highlighting the stark divisions which are threatening to tear the Nato Leaders’ meeting apart.
Yesterday saw US President Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron, France’s leader, deliver a joint press conference at which the strains were plain to see, with Mr Trump accusing his opposite number of giving “one of the greater non-answers I have ever heard”. Hours later, Mr Johnson’s bizarre embrace with Mrs Merkel likewise indicated the problems bubbling under the surface.
Mr Johnson and Mrs Merkel have endured a rocky relationship since he became Prime Minister in July.
In October, No 10 source claimed Mrs Merkel’s insistence on Northern Ireland remain in the EU’s customs union made a Brexit deal look “essentially impossible, not just now but ever”.
Mr Johnson today played down divisions in Nato amid differences over Turkey’s incursion against the Kurds in northern Syria.
Arriving for the 70th anniversary meeting of Nato leaders near Watford, Mr Johnson said Britain’s commitment to the alliance remained “rock solid”.
He said: “Clearly it is very important that the alliance stays together.
“But there is far, far more that unites us than divides us.”
Mr Johnson said he had a “very good” bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening.
He added: ”We discussed the future of Nato, we discussed what is going on in Syria and various other matters.”
However, today, NATO leaders appeared to mock Donald Trump at a Buckingham Palace reception.
A huddle which included Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Princess Royal was filmed apparently gossiping about the US president’s unorthodox style on Tuesday night, although Mr Trump is not mentioned by name.
During the casual chat, as the leaders sipped drinks, Mr Johnson can be heard asking French President Emmanuel Macron: “Is that why you were late?”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says: “He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.”
Later in the conversation Mr Trudeau adds: “You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor.”
A video clip of the chat, filmed as world leaders met ahead of a summit to mark Nato’s 70th anniversary, has been viewed almost four million times since it was posted online.
The joint Trump/Macron press conference came after Mr Trump branded Mr Macron’s comments that Nato is “brain dead” as “very nasty”, before the pair met at the US ambassador’s residence in London.
Mr Trump also pressed Mr Trudeau on Canada’s Nato spending at their bilateral meeting.
Meanwhile, following an evening reception hosted by Mr Johnson at Number 10, a member of the US Secret Service was pictured leaving with a Christmas bauble gifted to leaders.
Each Nato leader was given one of the decorations and invited to hang it from the Downing Street tree.