Sir Keir makes his international bow with ‘Lady Vic’ as new PM hits NATO summit in Washington – gladhanding fellow world leaders including Joe Biden, Volodymyr Zelensky, Emmanuel Macron and Dutch Euro 2024 rival

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Sir Keir Starmer has rounded out a mammoth first day as Prime Minister on the international stage gladhanding with fellow world leaders, including his Dutch counterpart as England took on the Netherlands at Euro 2024.

The Prime Minister arrived in Washington this morning for the annual NATO summit, supported by his wife Victoria, as he quickly faced the first major row of his premiership on Labour‘s commitment to defence spending. 

Questions were raised after a senior minister suggested the new government may not set a target on defence spending until after it has completed a review of the Armed Forces, which could take a year. 

Despite the ongoing trepidation on this commitment, the newly elected PM continued to urge other European nations to increase their defence investment and stressed his commitment to Ukraine. 

Sir Keir is under pressure to spell out when Britain will increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP, having refused to guarantee it during his first term in office.

Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria are pictured arriving in Washington DC, ahead of events including a lavish White House dinner for NATO leaders

Sir Keir headed to the Oval Office in the White House to meet President Biden, in their first face-to-face talks since last week's general election

Sir Keir headed to the Oval Office in the White House to meet President Biden, in their first face-to-face talks since last week’s general election

The PM, making his debut on the world stage at the NATO summit in Washington DC, told the Ukrainian President there would be 'no change of approach' under his Government

The PM, making his debut on the world stage at the NATO summit in Washington DC, told the Ukrainian President there would be ‘no change of approach’ under his Government

During a meeting with Macron on European security, the French President is understood to have suggested that a pact with the UK be created to reduce their reliance on the US

During a meeting with Macron on European security, the French President is understood to have suggested that a pact with the UK be created to reduce their reliance on the US

Tory shadow defence secretary James Cartlidge wrote to new Defence Secretary John Healey today to ask when spending would be increased.

The Government is poised to commission a strategic defence review to assess where additional funds will be directed, which defence minister Luke Pollard told Times Radio should be completed in less than a year.

Only after that will the new Government be able to set out a ‘roadmap’ to increasing spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP, it has been suggested.

The NATO summit is being attended by 23 EU countries and is expected to provide a ‘really important window of opportunity’ to make progress on building new relations for Sir Keir.

He kicked off this frenzy of meetings with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, where it is understood he was keen to highlight the importance of European diplomacy. 

Afterwards No10 said the German chancellor had ‘welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment to re-setting the UK’s European partnerships, noting how important our friendships with like-minded countries will be in a challenging international environment’.

A spokesman said: ‘They discussed the importance of having the widest possible cooperation across all aspects of the relationship.’

The summit will also be a key moment in introducing Lady Starmer to life in international statesmanship. She remained largely out of the limelight during the election campaign but will take part in a series of engagements with other leaders’ wives and husbands over the coming days.

After the PM met Olaf Scholz this afternoon, No10 said the German chancellor had 'welcomed the Prime Minister¿s commitment to re-setting the UK¿s European partnerships, noting how important our friendships with like-minded countries will be in a challenging international environment'.

After the PM met Olaf Scholz this afternoon, No10 said the German chancellor had ‘welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment to re-setting the UK’s European partnerships, noting how important our friendships with like-minded countries will be in a challenging international environment’.

Nato leaders have a 'family photo' at the Andrew W Mellon Auditorium in Washington last night

Nato leaders have a ‘family photo’ at the Andrew W Mellon Auditorium in Washington last night

Starmer also met with and greeted Ukraine‘s Volodymyr Zelensky with a hug earlier today as he stressed Britain having a new Government meant ‘no change’ in UK support for Kyiv.

‘As you know from the get go… there’s a change of government but no change of approach,’ Sir Keir said, as he met Mr Zelensky on the sidelines of the summit. 

Defence Secretary John Healey and Foreign Secretary David Lammy joined the Prime Minister with officials and the Ukrainian delegation around a table.

‘Thank you again that you are with us from the very beginning of the war,’ Mr Zelensky said, as he thanked Sir Keir for his words.

Speaking after the meeting, the PM said it was ‘really important’ for him to affirm Britain’s continued support for Ukraine in a face-to-face meeting with Mr Zelensky.   

Sir Keir Starmer greeted Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky with a hug today as he stressed Britain having a new Government meant 'no change' in UK support for Kyiv

Sir Keir Starmer greeted Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky with a hug today as he stressed Britain having a new Government meant ‘no change’ in UK support for Kyiv

Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Washington last night

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Washington last night

Following this, the i paper reported that the UK is also pushing the EU not to seek to replace Nato with a new internal defence pact.

During a meeting with Mr Macron on European security, the French President is understood to have suggested that a pact with the UK be created to reduce their reliance on the US.

The collection of world leaders also all had to pose up for a series of grip-and-grin photos to mark Nato’s 75th anniversary.

The new Prime Minister even managed to squeeze in a bit of time to watch England beat the Netherlands in the Euros semi-final – with his Dutch counterpart.

Sir Keir jumped for joy after Kane penalty goal, before turning to Dick Schoof and shaking his hand. 

Posting the moment on X, Sir Keir wrote: ‘Picked the right moment to pop out from Nato meetings and check the score…’ 

And No10 confirmed the newly elected PM will attend the final in Berlin on Sunday.  

Sir Keir pictured during a meeting with France's Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the NATO summit

Sir Keir pictured during a meeting with France’s Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the NATO summit

In more serious discussions, the President praised the UK for being the 'knot tying the transatlantic alliance together'

In more serious discussions, the President praised the UK for being the ‘knot tying the transatlantic alliance together’

US President Joe Biden hosts a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Keir Starmer in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington

US President Joe Biden hosts a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Keir Starmer in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington

Sir Keir then headed to the Oval Office in the White House to meet President Biden, in their first face-to-face talks since last week’s general election – with his US host crediting Sir Keir for the Three Lions’ success. 

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office  the pair were asked: ‘Is football coming home?’

‘It looks like it,’ Sir Keir answered, to which Mr Biden added: ‘It’s all because of the Prime Minister.’

Sir Keir joked: ‘Not lost a game under the Labour Government.’

In more serious discussions, the President praised the UK for being the ‘knot tying the transatlantic alliance together.’

Next week the PM will hosts leaders from 50 European countries at a summit of the European Political Community at Blenheim Palace, where he hopes to solidify more of these relationships. 

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