Joe Biden has been projected the winner of the 2020 US Presidential Election, despite incumbent Donald Trump refusing to concede defeat. The expectation, supported by multiple news sources, that Biden will be the 46th President of the United States has caused a range of reactions across America. But what’s the reaction like across the Atlantic?
Haven’t we met before?
President-elect Joe Biden is already familiar with PM Boris Johnson. Judging by the previous comments made, the relationship between the two leaders may already be off to a rocky start. Johnson’s former remarks about then-president Barak Obama won’t be forgotten quickly by Biden. In 2016, when Johnson was Mayor of London, he claimed that Barack Obama had an ‘ancestral dislike’ of Britain as a result of his ‘part-Kenyan’ heritage. In turn, just after the 2019 General Election, Biden called Johnson a ‘physical and emotional clone’ of Donald Trump. So, whilst Downing Street may be stressing the existence of ‘shared priorities’ between the two leaders, it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether those previous remarks have set the tone for an awkward relationship between the two men.
The lingering topic for many is Brexit. Biden’s made it clear in the past that he’s no fan of Britain withdrawing from the European Union, but as a proud Irish-American, he also stressed the importance of maintaining the Good Friday Agreement. On the 16th of September, Biden tweeted: ‘we can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit’. Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, suggested Biden’s dissatisfaction with the Internal Market Bill will cause the British government to ensure ‘Irish issues are prioritised’. Furthermore, the Irish PM, Micheal Martin said the President-elect had ‘underlined his commitment to the Good Friday Agreement’ in their telephone conversation.
The view from 10 Downing Street
Well, one insider told Sky News’ Beth Rigby that Number 10 is indifferent to Biden’s victory, saying; ‘to those in the EU who think the Biden result changes Number 10’s point of view, they won’t be giving it a second thought’. In fact, the general consensus on Biden’s victory is that, from a trade perspective, it will have a negligible effect on the UK. Andrew Goodwin, the Chief UK Economist with Oxford Economics, told Deutsche Welle: ‘we don’t think a Biden win will have a tangible impact on UK trade policy’. Similarly, Sophia Gaston, Director of the British Foreign Policy Group, has said that Biden’s election will have ‘minimal’ impact on Brexit. Adding that, the effect of Biden’s victory on Brexit has been ‘overblown’. Former Brexit adviser to Theresa May, Raoul Ruparel, agreed.
The possibility of a US-UK trade deal according to Sherman Robinson, a senior fellow at Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), will take time to come to fruition. Robinson has argued that the main outcome of Biden’s win ‘from the British perspective, [is that] it will just slow things down’. This is primarily to do with the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which expires on July 1st, 2021. The TPA is where Congress agrees to suspend its normal rules and approves (or rejects) trade deals more quickly. Biden is expected to want to use this limited time to focus on domestic issues. Especially in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections. So, a US-UK trade deal will not be high on Biden’s list of priorities for a while.
Even with Trump in office, Johnson himself admitted that striking a trade deal with the US is tough. Despite Trump being pro-Brexit, he still had an adamant ‘America First’ policy. Biden’s election is thought to lead to both the US and UK eventually joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Which is currently a free trade agreement between Canada and 10 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
So what does Britain think of Biden?
Well, it seems that a Biden presidency will have little effect on the process of establishing a US-UK trade deal. Especially seeing as there was still a long way to go during trade talks with President Trump. However, the UK government will likely tread carefully when it comes to the Internal Market Bill, to ensure it doesn’t upset fellow Irishman Biden. I suspect also that efforts will be made to try and patch up the fuzzy relationship between Johnson and Biden. At this point we can analyse the leaders’ respective policies and relationship all we want, but time is the only reliable indicator of what Britain really thinks of Biden.