Adding to the anticipation was tension over the future of the Good Friday peace agreement in Ireland. Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, has expressed concern that a trade row between the United Kingdom and European Union could endanger the landmark peace deal.
The day before their meeting, The Times reported that America’s top diplomat Yael Lempert had told Brexit Minister David Frost that Johnson’s government was “inflaming” tensions in Ireland and Europe with its opposition to checks at ports in the province.
Lempert even issued the Johnson government with a demarche, a formal diplomatic reprimand that is seldom exchanged between allies.
Johnson, for his part, has bristled at Biden’s repeated reference to the “special relationship” between the two countries, apparently seeing it as patronising towards the UK.
But when they came together in Cornwall, the two leaders were all smiles with no friction on display.
After enjoying a walk along the seaside with their wives, Biden and Johnson spoke briefly before the cameras. Biden remarked to Johnson that they had something in common: “We both married way above our station”.
Johnson replied that he was “not going to dissent from that point, I’m not going to disagree with the president there”.
He then added: “Or indeed on anything else, I think it highly likely.”
Johnson was clearly determined to be on his best behaviour as he tries to shed his Trumpian image and develop a bond with the new US President.
After their 80-minute meeting, Johnson said: “It’s wonderful to listen to the Biden administration and to Joe Biden, because there’s so much they want to do together with us – from security, NATO, to climate change.
“And it’s fantastic, it’s a breath of fresh air,” he added, suggesting he was delighted with the change from Trump to Biden.
Johnson’s famed political flexibility – derided as opportunism by his critics – was on full display. And the special relationship between the US and UK appeared very much intact, even if it’s a term Johnson would rather avoid.