OPINION: Why Biden’s victory could have a big impact on Brexit negotiations

OPINION: Why Biden's victory could have a big impact on Brexit negotiations
President Elect Joe Biden. Photo: AFP
Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain believes the change at the helm of US politics will be prove a decisive factor in the UK’s willingness to compromise over a Brexit deal.

You have probably noticed that America is soon to have a new president. The current White House incumbent has his ears and eyes firmly closed and refuses to accept that his days are numbered. According to some sources in the UK media, our own head of state, Boris Johnson, may be in a similarly insecure position.

Since Joe Biden officially became the President Elect on Saturday, after what seemed like days of election uncertainty, he has hit the ground running. Despite not yet receiving any recognition of his win or offer of transitional support from Donald Trump, he has already started to implement important plans.

An urgent task for Biden is the fight against coronavirus. He has created a special task force, comprising health officials, physicians and virology experts. He has also actively encouraging the wearing of face masks by the American public – unlike Trump, who was pictured without one even when he was Covid positive.

The contrast between Biden and Trump could not be starker. In January, the American people will finally have an adult in charge: one who has a heart, a brain and a wealth of experience. The change will leave many UK residents feeling jealous that we are being led by “Britain’s Trump”.

Prime Minister Johnson and Biden have never met, though they have now spoken on the phone.  On Tuesday, Biden spoke with a number of European leaders, including Ireland’s Michael Martin. Biden reassured the Irish Taoiseach that Brexit must not damage the Good Friday Agreement, in a call that Martin described as “warm and engaging”.

On his call with Johnson, Biden stressed the importance of securing a Brexit deal that protects peace in Northern Ireland. Presumably, Biden’s earlier reference to Johnson as a “physical and emotional clone” of Donald Trump, was not mentioned.

Biden has made no secret of his disdain for Brexit and is fiercely loyal to, and proud of, his Irish roots.

Johnson’s Internal Market Bill (IMB) is a cause of consternation in America, as it threatens to break the international treaty of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA).

The deal that Johnson signed with the EU a year ago, settling the early stages of Brexit – including our rights as citizens – is under significant threat, along with the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).

Both Biden and the US government have made it clear that, as guarantors to the GFA, they will refuse any trade deal with the UK if Johnson reneges on his international commitments.

On Monday, the controversial IMB was given short shrift by the House of Lords. In a significant government defeat, even staunch Conservative Brexit supporters expressed their outrage at the government’s plans.

Yet, despite the opposition, Johnson insists that the controversial clauses the Lords removed will be reinstated when the bill returns to the Commons in December. The prime minister and his cabinet insist that the clauses exist for the protection of the GFA, rather than being a threat– an argument accepted by only his most loyal supporters.

Of course, what happens in December depends on the ongoing Brexit negotiations with the EU. The change at the helm of US politics could be a decisive factor in the UK’s willingness to compromise over a deal.

The behaviour of certain Brexiter backbenchers is doing nothing to improve relations with the new political leaders in the USA. Iain Duncan Smith told Biden to “butt out” of UK domestic policy and let the UK “get on with our legislation”.

John Redwood went further, sending a “warning letter” to the president elect, saying that our mandate (for Brexit) was bigger than his mandate (for being president). As if Johnson’s own behaviour, both past and present, isn’t already causing concern across the pond, we have to listen to the Conservative equivalent of my dad is bigger than your dad!

While our prime minister still seems to believe that he – or at least the UK – has a special relationship with America, the Democratic party clearly disagrees. Johnson’s racist comments are coming back to haunt him and his close association with Trump is disliked by the new administration.

When Johnson eventually congratulated Biden in a tweet, former Obama press aide, Tommy Vietor, responded by calling him a “shapeshifting creep”, adding, “we will never forget your racist comments about Obama and slavish devotion to Trump”.

Try as we might, the era of Trump, and the UK’s Poundland version, isn’t so quick to erase from our collective memory.

When hurtful words, deeds and policies have affected so many lives, the healing process will take time. We hope that our own battle with dishonest, racist, self-serving politics will soon be over.

If we could also rid ourselves of the toxicity in the Home Office, so much the better. I never again want to listen to Home Secretary, Priti Patel, gloating about how “delighted” she is to remove our freedom of movement.

A change is coming, whether it’s the Prime Minister’s choice or one forced on him by his “loyal” party. We can only hope the cure isn’t worse than the disease, and that Britain will soon find its very own Biden and see a return to caring, outward-looking politics.

You never know… we might even renew links with our wonderful European neighbours. If there’s one gift President Elect Biden gave us last weekend, it was hope.

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain


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