The leader of the British opposition, Ed Miliband, met President Obama for their pre-arranged “brush-by” Monday afternoon. Without issuing any official prior confirmation, the president dropped in to Miliband’s meeting with National Security Adviser Susan Rice in the White House. The pair chatted for 25 minutes on a variety of issues — including Ukraine, Gaza, the economy, climate change, the Scottish independence referendum and the future of the European Union, according to a Labor Party spokesman.
The visit, which Miliband’s team were hoping would project an image of a prime minister in waiting, appears to have been successful. The White House said in a statement that “the President and Mr. Miliband affirmed the strong ties that bind the United States and the United Kingdom.” Through this public acknowledgement of their discussion of pressing international issues, Miliband achieved the goal of the visit.
His people even got a photo to post on Twitter:
— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) July 21, 2014
The opposition leader also arrived in Washington with an agenda to project Britain’s role in Europe. In a speech at the Center for American Progress Monday morning, Miliband was keen to point out that the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States will only continue to work if Britain is a key part of Europe — a key Miliband policy.
"In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy of flight MH17, we must again be that catalyst for global solidarity and decisive action. And to achieve those ends this we need Britain at the heart of a reformed and resolute E.U.,” he said.
"Nothing could illustrate more starkly the need for European and American partnership than the cloud cast globally from the events in the skies in Ukraine. Britain in Europe working in partnership with America is not only in all our interests, it is the best way to promote stability and prosperity across the globe."
Miliband has been offered the same courtesy as previous leaders of the opposition. Tony Blair received a semi-official welcome from Bill Clinton in 1996, where the pair chatted for 20 minutes. David Cameron, the current prime minister, had a brush-by with George W. Bush in 2007, lasting half an hour.