British and American lawmakers meet in Vermont

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(Host) British and American lawmakers are in Vermont this weekend for meetings on topics ranging from global climate change to terrorism.

They say the sessions are part of a 70-year tradition that helps to maintain the special relationship between Washington and London.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports.

(Sneyd) Meetings of the British prime minister and U-S president are familiar affairs. But the close working relationship between members of the U-S Congress and British Parliament are less well known.

The legislators are members of the British-American Parliamentary Group and they get together at least once a year.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is hosting this year’s meetings, which are taking place in Burlington and Stowe. He says personally knowing his British counterparts can be helpful.

(Leahy) The important thing to most of us is the fact that the people that we meet here, we can just lift the phone and talk with them at any time about anything.

(Sneyd) William Hague is a member of the Conservative Party in the British Parliament.

He says the meetings give U-S and British leaders of all political parties an opportunity to have frank discussions.

Hague says that helps the governments on both sides of the Atlantic better understand each others’ points of view.

(Hague) We believe the relationship between Britain and America should not just be between the governments. It should be between the legislatures, as well.

(Sneyd) There are a lot of topics on the agenda of this weekend’s meetings.

They include defense, agriculture, climate change and the ongoing relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.

Republican Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi is participating in the meetings. He says the weighty issues lawmakers are dealing with require trans-Atlantic cooperation.

(Cochran) It’s a serious time in both of our countries. And it’s time to talk seriously about how better to protect our interests and protect the people whom we represent.

(Sneyd) Five U-S senators are at the meetings, including Leahy and Senator Bernie Sanders. Congressman Peter Welch is attending, too. And 13 members of the British Parliament are on hand, including Nobel Peace Prize winner John Trimble.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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