London (Brussels Morning) Some political opponents will tell you exactly where they stand. Former Brexit Party visionary Nigel Farage, for instance, did zero to hide his support of 45, and his alliances are clear.
Before Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s proclaimed victory from incumbent Donald Trump, bets weren’t needed on which horse Boris Johnson’s government would have been backing.
It, however, decided to play a shrewd but potentially misplayed hand, straddling the Trump-Biden fence, and in doing so, possibly put itself in weaker standing with its new trans-Atlantic partners. Of course, no one has been banking on a Johnson-Biden bromance.
Johnson has always been seen as Trump’s man, receiving praise for Brexit and currying the same populist favour. The Democrats see him as a mini-me of the man on his way out from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Leading the Conservative’s pro-Brexit campaign puts Johnson at odds with the Irish-American president-elect, who was firmly against Britain leaving the EU. Former president Barak Obama already warned the UK would be back of the queue for a trade deal, which may cause fears that any gains seen in discussions with Trump will be put in reverse.
This is even more likely should the UK insist on going through with its internal market bill, potentially placing the Good Friday Agreement at threat.
Biden has been unambiguous with his thoughts on this:
“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period”.
Despite assurances from ministers that there are no intentions of breaking the agreement, the US might not take their word for it. In itself, the bill breaks international law. It has triggered a legal suit from the European Commission, so the Democrats may be forgiven for thinking the UK under its current administration an untrustworthy partner.
There was zero redemption either when neither Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab nor Johnson condemned Trump’s false election claims after he demanded a stop to the count and said he had won. Britain remained irresolute on accusations that the Democrats were trying to steal the election.
It’s now possible Biden sees no ally in Johnson’s Tory party, and by Monday afternoon, two days after the result, Boris still had received no phone call. That honour may well be reserved for those who’ve been less wavering in their loyalties — partners like Germany’s Angela Merkel, for instance, who has long been forthright about her thoughts on the Trump presidency.
While no longer besties, however, the two parties still have some common ground, and it is clear Johnson will want to exploit mutual concerns over climate change.
The future COP26 Climate Change summit will be based in the UK — in Scotland — and getting back on track with international commitments on the issue, such as the Paris Agreement, will be a priority for Biden.
Britain is certainly now keen to press ahead and forge good ties with the new leader:
“The United States is our closest and most important ally. And that’s been the case under president after president, prime minister after prime minister. It won’t change”, said Johnson earlier today, adding that he was looking forward to working with Biden and his team “on a lot of crucial stuff for us in the weeks and months ahead… Many, many, many, many, many other issues”.
Johnson isn’t completely delusional; on issues around foreign policy and international security, Biden, and his Vice President Kamala Harris, aren’t soft pedlars, and in many arenas, their approach may not even differ from Trump’s.
The bottom line is, there’s enough common ground to maintain the relationship; it’s just unlikely to be filled with fireworks at the onset.