After hotfooting it out of Ireland to beat an Icelandic cloud of volcanic ash, the Obamas arrived in London last night for a two-day stop on their European tour. They were greeted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace this morning to start off the official state visit, followed by a tour of the palace, a wreath-laying at Westminster Abbey, and a quick meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron. Tonight, the Queen will hostess the Obamas for a state dinner at Buckingham Palace.
The real policy discussions will take place tomorrow, however, with Libya, Afghanistan, and the global economy all on the table. As the Brits have often felt miffed by Obama’s multiple gaffes dismissing the U.S.-British Special Relationship, President Obama and PM Cameron released an editorial published in the Times of London this morning entitled "Not Just Special, But An Essential Relationship" that emphasized the business-side of the relationship: "Yes, [the U.S.-U.K. relationship] is founded on a deep emotional connection, by sentiment and ties of people and culture. But the reason it thrives, the reason why this is such a natural partnership, is because it advances our common interests and shared values. It is a perfect alignment of what we both need and what we both believe."
The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the burgeoning pro-democracy movements in the Middle East and North Africa: "We see the prospect of democracy and universal rights taking hold in the Arab world, and it fills us with confidence and a renewed commitment to an alliance based not just on interests, but on values," the leaders wrote.
The editorial also hit upon the global economy, remarking: "We are two different countries, but our destination must be the same: strong and stable growth, reduced deficits and reform of our financial systems." Cameron’s government has introduced austerity measures to reduce the U.K. fiscal deficit to 2.5% of GDP by 2015, compared to the March 2011 rate of 9.6%. President Obama’s proposed budget plans (to diminish deficits by just $4 trillion over twelve years by reducing defense spending and raising taxes on the wealthy), however, have yet to gain any viable traction for the United States.