Boris Johnson Plans a Virtual Meeting of G-7 Leaders Next Month
Boris Johnson, U.K. prime minister, returns to number 10 Downing Street after attending Parliament in London, U.K. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Boris Johnson Plans a Virtual Meeting of G-7 Leaders Next Month

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to host a virtual meeting of Group of Seven leaders next month as he starts his presidency of the wealthy nations’ forum at a pivotal moment for the U.K. and the global economy.

According to two people familiar with the matter, Johnson’s proposed meeting of leaders would be in addition to the regular G-7 Summit, which is expected to take place in mid-June, in person, one of the people said.

British officials aim to schedule next month’s virtual gathering for the end of February, after the inauguration of incoming U.S. President Joe Biden.

This year’s program of events, which the U.K. is hosting, will be an opportunity to revive the forum after Donald Trump was often seen to undermine it, most notably in Canada in 2018 when he refused to sign the end-of-summit communique. The 2020 G-7, which the U.S. was meant to host, didn’t take place at all, in part because of the pandemic disruption but also because Trump tried repeatedly to arrange it in person.

February’s virtual meeting will allow Johnson to present his priorities and policy agenda for this year’s summit program, which the people said will focus on promoting democratic values through the G-7. The U.K. could push for a more united front on countries at odds with democratic values and human rights, such as China.

The teleconference call will center primarily on the immediate response to the coronavirus pandemic crisis, one of the people said. Johnson’s office declined to comment.

Fresh from completing its divorce from the European Union, the U.K. has a chance in 2021 to show what Johnson means with his promise to turn the country into “global Britain.” As well as taking over the G-7 leadership, the U.K. will hold the presidency of the United Nations Security Council in February and is co-hosting the COP26 global climate talks, with a summit planned for November.

“Human rights will be at the forefront of our leadership this year,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in Parliament on Tuesday. “The U.K. has a crucial role to play in promoting open societies including on human rights, but also defending public goods in areas like climate change and Covid response.”

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