The long-standing ‘Special Relationship’ between the United States and the United Kingdom has the potential to be strained by the new POTUS’ public dislike of both the UK’s Brexit decision, and the way in which the UK PM went about dealing with potential infringements of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ during Brexit negotiations.
Biden was Obama’s Vice President during the UK’s EU referendum, and the two helped then PM David Cameron campaign in favour of a remain vote. Biden also famously called Johnson a ‘physical and emotional clone’ of President Trump at a fundraising dinner (1). Furthermore, the sitting President (who has Irish ancestry) tweeted on the importance of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’, saying that ‘any trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.’ (2) This showed a clear disapproval for the then terms of the British PM’s proposed Brexit deal.
This leaves Johnson in a sticky situation. He aligns with the new President on many key global projects such as America’s involvement in the World Health Organisation and Paris Agreement (both of which the former President Trump tried/succeeded to remove America from). However, he had been capitalising on a close relationship with Trump (who seemed to clearly prefer Johnson over other EU leaders – once describing him as ‘Britain Trump’ in a speech). A post-Brexit trade deal between the two nations seemed in the pipeline and the arrival of a new President could either delay or destroy the progress made in that area.
The EU were noticeably delighted with Biden’s election triumph. Ursula von der Leyen (the European Commission President) tweeted that ‘The United States is back. And Europe stands ready. To reconnect with an old and trusted partner, to breathe new life into our cherished alliance’ (3).
So will the British PM’s previous alignment to Trump come back to bite him? Or will the ‘Special Relationship’ save the UK in the race between the EU and UK to get new trade deals with the world’s biggest economy? Only time will tell, but it seems Johnson may have some grovelling to do.
Jargon Buster Glossary
POTUS – Common abbreviation, short for President of the United States.
Special Relationship – The name given to the close political, cultural, trading and military ties between the United States and the United Kingdom. First coined just after WW2 by then Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Good Friday Agreement – The ‘Good Friday Agreement’ or ‘Belfast Agreement’ of 1998, was an agreement between the British and Irish governments on how Northern Ireland should be governed. This signified an official end to ‘the Troubles’ that had plagued Ireland and Northern Ireland before. However, tensions on the subject continue to remain high.
By: Joe Spiby – BeComAware North America Correspondent