“Joe Biden is one of the few world leaders I haven’t insulted.” According to the Times, this is how Boris Johnson joked, behind closed doors and with the ballot counting in progress, when the victory of the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, at the American election, was beginning to materialise. The British Premier was among the first to publicly congratulate the Biden-Harris team: his political survival also depends on the "special relationship" he will be able (or not able) to maintain with the United States. A relationship, the one between the two countries, that has historical roots and is based not only on friendship and cultural ties between the two English-speaking nations, but also on commercial and political bonds.
From the so-called "special relationship" between the United States and Great Britain, political cycles that have influenced the whole West and much of the world have blossomed. We have seen them making history with their coalitions: Thatcher-Reagan, neoliberalism; Clinton-Blair, the reformist "third way" of the left; Johnson-Trump, populism. Now the election of Joe Biden could spark a new season across the Atlantic.
Donald Trump’s defeat is wonderful for the world but trouble for Boris Johnson, who in more than one occasion has been identified as Trump’s European impersonator. According to the Guardian, continuing to pose as British Trump, after the real one has finally left the scene, would be counterproductive for Johnson: no one wants to have a loser as a model. What's worse for him, Johnson loses the partner who urged him to push the Brexit accelerator to the maximum, break free from the shackles of the European Union and embrace a casual business relationship with the US.
So now, there’s only one question everyone keeps asking themselves. Will Joe Biden's victory and his new US presidency have any consequences on Brexit? At the moment, it is difficult to give a decisive answer. However, what seems certain, in the opinion of many experts, is that the new tenant of the White House will not support British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as Donald Trump did, in his threats to leave the negotiating table without a deal.
For the UK, Brexit was already a problem, and the economic depression trigger by the Covid-19 pandemic has made it even more serious. But if you add the Biden presidency to this scenario, the cocktail can become explosive. During the presidential campaign, the Democratic candidate clearly warned: if Brexit threatens peace in Ireland, the country where Biden's family originated (and from which millions of immigrants have come to America), there will be no chance of a free trade pact with Great Britain. The most serious threat to Irish peace, reached in 1998 with the mediation of Washington D.C., would indeed be "no deal", which means the exit of Great Britain from the EU without any agreement. A hypothesis that is still possible, even a few weeks away from the obligatory end of the negotiations between the two parties, which must be concluded by the deadline already set for December 31st.
Some said that Johnson would have waited for the result of the US presidential election to decide whether to approve the concessions necessary for an agreement with Brussels. For the same reason, it is now said that Downing Street will be forced to authorise a compromise at any cost in order to reach an agreement with the EU. Brexit with no deal and Biden in the White House would make the UK feel very isolated in the world. Though, the doubt is whether even a Brexit deal will be enough to strengthen the "special relationship" between two countries "divided by the same language", and now also by two radically different leaders.
So what will happen to the negotiations for a post-Brexit bilateral trade agreement between the UK and the US? With Biden's victory, the negotiations between the two states will essentially have to start over. But that's not all. Should there be discord, Biden said he would also be willing to withdraw the possibility of a trade treaty with the UK.
The two politicians have never met in person, but in their hands is encased the future of their continents and their people.
Biden is expected to start a reconciliation with the European Union, probably with discounts or the cancellation of the protectionist tariffs of his predecessor. The return to the Paris agreements against climate change is already official. On the contrary, he specified that the trade pact with the UK is not among the priorities of his first 100 days in office. On the other side of the pond, with a pinch of cynicism and realpolitik, Johnson will try to establish good diplomatic relations immediately. Otherwise, as said by the former head of the Foreign Office and a succession of ex-ambassadors, the Prime Minister will face a catastrophe in terms of future relations with Washington D.C. if he pursues a no deal Brexit.
What we all hope, is that in the long term, negotiations between the UK and the US, with Biden at the helm of the latter, could instead take on less conflicting tones, thanks to the sharing of similar commercial interests between the United States and Europe.
Credit picture: GettyImages
Written by Miriam Tagini