BORIS Johnson sought to play down differences with Joe Biden, claiming the new US President was a “breath of fresh air” and insisting there was “absolutely common ground” over Northern Ireland.

The US President’s concerns over the way the UK Government is treating the Protocol with the European Union which governs post-Brexit arrangements on the island of Ireland threatened to overshadow the first meeting between the two leaders yesterday.

Following the talks, Johnson said he was “optimistic” the peace process would be kept going.

Asked if Biden made his alarm about the situation in Northern Ireland clear, the Prime Minister said: “No, he didn’t.

“What I can say is that America – the United States, Washington – the UK plus the European Union have one thing we absolutely all want to do and that is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and make sure we keep the balance of the peace process going.

“That’s absolutely common ground and I’m optimistic that we can do that.”

Biden’s first overseas visit has provided the US President with the opportunity to repair some of the international relations damaged by predecessor Donald Trump.

Biden said the meeting, which lasted around an hour and twenty minutes, had been “very productive”.

He told reporters in Cornwall the revitalised Atlantic Charter agreed by the two men would address the “key challenges of this century – cyber security, emerging technologies, global health and climate change”.

The original Atlantic Charter was a joint statement made by Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt in 1941, setting out the UK and US goals for the post-Second World War world.

Biden said: “We affirmed the special relationship – that is not said lightly – the special relationship between our people and renewed our commitment to defending the enduring democratic values that both our nations share.”

Johnson dislikes the term “special relationship” as he reportedly believes it makes the UK sound needy.

Biden added that Johnson had led a “strong campaign to get people vaccinated across the UK”.

Speaking at the Tregenna Castle hotel in St Ives, he said the US would “help lead the world out of this pandemic” alongside other G7 countries.

The two leaders and their wives – Carrie Johnson and Jill Biden – admired the view over Carbis Bay before their meeting.

The issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol – the post-Brexit trading arrangements which have led to a dispute between the UK and EU – had been raised by the US side in advance of the discussions.

The scale of Biden’s unease about the UK’s approach to the Protocol was revealed in a leaked memo which showed the US took the extraordinary step of ordering its most senior diplomat in London, Yael Lempert, to deliver a demarche – a formal protest – in a meeting with Brexit minister Lord Frost on June 3.

Downing Street did not deny the encounter took place.

The meeting of the two leaders came on the eve of the G7 summit which will bring together the world’s wealthiest democracies and last until Sunday.