The advent of the new US President, Democrat Joe Biden, does little to aid the insecurities wrought by the potential of a no-deal Brexit. At best, we can hope that Biden’s influence may steer the government into protecting the Good Friday Agreement. The reality, however, is that Biden’s initial focus will be much more on domestic issues, rather than trying to broker any new foreign trade deals that could help us out after Brexit.
Following a president as calamitous as Trump, Biden’s immediate priorities lie with helping to get the COVID-19 pandemic in the US under wraps; the US has the most cases and deaths of any country worldwide, and Trump is in denial. There is also hope that Biden will help fix some of the damage done to the healthcare system, environment and economy by the Trump administration. A number of Biden’s key pledges involved the raising of minimum wage, the imposition of a fairer taxation system, and investments in green energy. Biden has also vowed that he wants to focus on expanding the Obamacare policies he was an architect for under Obama, and that Trump has made multiple concerted efforts to reduce. (It is important to note, however, that Biden definitely does not have an immaculate record; “Not Trump” is an exceptionally low bar).
It is clear that Biden has a lot to work on domestically before he will move to brokering deals overseas. And, when Biden might move towards establishing and reviving trade deals with Europe, it’s unlikely that the UK would be his priority. There are talks of Biden’s first trip to Europe currently being to Brussels, where both NATO and the EU are based. This marks a significant step away from the US President’s first European visit historically being to London, and by extension diminishes the UK’s prominence in transatlantic relations.
This “step away” from the US/UK’s “special relationship” when it comes to brokering foreign deals is surely influenced by both Brexit, and Johnson’s neglect of a relationship with Biden.
The Democrats have shown scorn for Brexit historically; Obama warned that the UK would go to the “back of the queue” for trade deals before the referendum in 2016. Clearly, the Democrats do not view Brexit as a strategic or advantageous trade position for the UK.
Johnson and Biden’s relationship is also a tricky one. The two men have never met. Biden also doesn’t seem too enthusiastic to meet anytime soon – he has referred to Johnson as a “physical and emotional clone” of Donald Trump (although there is some irony in how similarly politically mapped the Democrats and Conservatives are).There have been some recent attempts – namely through Dominic Raab’s contact with Democrat Senator Chris Coons – to help regather this relationship. There are also hopes that the UK and US will meet over common issues, namely climate change, particularly as the UK is chairing next year’s UN Climate Summit. However, the bad footing is definitely there.
The best we can hope for, then, from a Biden administration is that it might steer the government into helping preserve the Good Friday Agreement that Clinton’s presidency helped form. A no-deal Brexit may well lead to the unravelling of the Good Friday Agreement, which is seen as influential in restoring peace in Ireland after the Troubles. Biden has been vocal about how catastrophic he thinks the implications of undercutting the agreement would be, and is likely to take a step further away from the UK were it to be unravelled. Although Brexit has seen a marked shift in the UK’s trade focus towards the Pacific, the hope that the UK will want to salvage some relationship with the US helps incentivise against a no-deal Brexit.
With any hope, Biden might help steer us away from a no-deal Brexit. But it is narcissistic and naive to assume he will extend any trade life-lines once we have left the EU.
Image source: Business Insider