Rishi Sunak will stay at the palatial US residence known as The President’s Guest House on his visit to Washington next week, as the White House seeks to roll out the red carpet for the Prime Minister, The Telegraph understands.
Described as the “world’s most exclusive hotel” Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh stayed there in 2007.
Mr Sunak, who will be the first British leader to stay at Blair House since David Cameron, recently said the relationship between the UK and US is “in great shape” and the gesture by Mr Biden is seen as an illustration of the pair’s good working relations.
It is also intended to make clear the US commitment to the special relationship after White House officials were surprised by criticism across the Atlantic of Mr Biden’s decision not to attend the King’s Coronation last month.
It also came after Mr Biden made a diplomatic gaffe in which he suggested his trip to Ireland in April was to make sure “the Brits didn’t screw around” with the Good Friday Agreement.
Ahead of Mr Sunak’s fourth meeting with Mr Biden since March, No 10 said: “No British Prime Minister has had this much sustained contact with the president of the US in recent years.”
The Prime Minister said: “The US is our closest ally. We are one another’s partner of first resort when it comes to everything from keeping our people safe to growing our economies.
“That’s why it is so important for a UK Prime Minister to forge a close and candid relationship with the president of the United States – on every global problem, you will see us working side-by-side.
“I’m looking forward to seeing President Biden later this week to continue those efforts, and to deliver for the British people.”
Rare press outing for the president
In a further signal of the White House’s desire to promote the relationship with Britain, Mr Biden has also committed to holding a rare joint press conference with Mr Sunak.
It will be only the fifth press conference held by Mr Biden so far this year.
While in the US, Mr Sunak will also attend a “UK-US Friendship Day”-themed baseball clas between the Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, in honour of the King’s coronation. The game will involve a joint flyover by the UK and US militaries and performances by the Royal Marine Corps of Drums and the Washington tattoo.
On Thursday, he will become the first British prime minister to address the ‘Business Roundtable’ – an annual summit of US chief executives.
Blair House is opposite the White House and at 70,000 sq ft is bigger, with 14 bedrooms and 35 bathrooms. It was purchased by the US government during the Second World War. Before that, guests of the president would spend a night in the White House then move to their country’s embassy.
According to an official history of the property it was bought after Eleanor Roosevelt found Sir Winston Churchill, who was staying at the White House at the time, “wandering towards the family’s private quarters at 3am, trademark cigar in hand, to rouse the sleeping president for more conversation.”
He met Eleanor first, however, who firmly persuaded him to wait until breakfast.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt “soon approved the purchase of Blair House and the President’s Guest House was in business.”
US presidents, including Mr Biden, traditionally stay there on the night before their inauguration and polish their speech in the library, which has 1,500 books.
Kamala Harris, on becoming vice president, temporarily lived there in 2021. The invitation to stay there was also a sign of the positive relationship between Mr Biden and Mr Sunak.
The two leaders met recently in Hiroshima at the G7, in Belfast in April, and in San Diego in March.
White House officials said their meeting next week would include discussions on Ukraine, energy security and the climate crisis.
They will also discuss efforts to strengthen the economic relationship, and “review developments” in Northern Ireland.There will be a “two-plus-two” press conference at which two journalists from each country will get to ask questions of each leader.
According to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Mr Biden has given fewer press conferences than any of his predecessors since Ronald Reagan.
He has often eschewed the traditional joint events with visiting leaders.
Recently, President Gustavo Petro of Colombia was left to answer questions alone in the White House driveway.
Former White House officials have told The Telegraph that “consummate communications micromanagers” currently around Mr Biden are determined to “control the narrative”.
They have insulated him from facing tough questions and against situations where he may publicly ad lib.
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