The US hate the UK
Last week, the US presidential elections were watched with great interest all over the world. In Great Britain, there is likely to have been a particularly high level of interest in one London address: Number 10 Downing Street. And for good reason: Boris Johnson's Brexit government is longing for a trade deal with the United States. But future President Joe Biden doesn't think much of Brexit or Johnson.
The Brexit hardliners in particular have long viewed a British-American free trade agreement as something like a Brexit grand prize. Ultimately, Great Britain would take back the place on the world stage in their imagination that it has lost - allegedly also because of its EU membership.
A trade agreement with the US is also intended to offset some of the losses that are inevitable due to the exit from the EU internal market. And last but not least, the talks on a trade agreement with the US, which London is also conducting alongside those with Brussels, should increase the pressure on the EU.
Joe Biden did it: He is moving into the White House as the 46th President. A look at his economic program shows that he wants to change a lot - but not only Donald Trump could slow him down quickly.
Therefore, London has been courting the outgoing US President Donald Trump since his election victory in 2016. In early 2017, for example, Johnson's predecessor Theresa May rushed to Washington just a few days after Trump was sworn in to push for a trade agreement. At the time, many heads of state and government approached Trump more hesitantly because of his racist tirades. In mid-2018, Trump then visited Great Britain, a year later May even received him with a huge fuss for a state visit to London. Boris Johnson has also been flattering the US President as much as possible since his appointment as Prime Minister. But the long-awaited British-American trade agreement was still a long time coming. London tried to talk its way out of it in the summer on the grounds that the corona pandemic had delayed negotiations.
With Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House, a British-American trade agreement could even fail completely. The Brexit-friendly “Daily Telegraph” reported with a certain horror at the weekend that the trade agreement with Great Britain is said to have slipped far down on Biden's to-do list. In the first hundred days in office, Biden will hardly turn to the topic, an adviser to the upcoming US president told the newspaper.
And even if Biden were in a more hurry with a free trade agreement with Great Britain, a deal could fail due to the political situation. Because the Republicans could keep their majority in the Senate in the coming year - and postpone the appointment of a new US trade representative. A special regulation that allows the US president to sign trade agreements will also expire next summer. After that, the Congress is responsible for it again.
Biden and his team can't stand Johnson
But that could be one of the lesser problems for London. Much more important is the simple fact that Biden apparently can't stand the British prime minister. The Sunday Times quoted a member of Biden's campaign team as saying that the upcoming US administration would be bothered by how much British immigration policy resembled Donald Trump's. The derogatory comments by some British ministers on the Black Lives Matter movement had also attracted negative attention in the Biden camp. And Biden has not forgotten Johnson's "racist comments" from the past. "If you think Joe hates him, you should hear Kamala first," said the Biden confidante. Great Britain is still viewed as an ally in the Biden camp, he added. "But there won't be a 'special relationship' with Boris Johnson."
In Great Britain there are no longer any certainties - except: Boris Johnson wants Brexit at all costs. But the economy is not at all prepared for the most likely scenario.
In particular, Biden is unlikely to have forgotten a comment that Johnson made in the run-up to the EU referendum. Many Brexit supporters were angry at the then US President Barack Obama after he had spoken out in favor of Britain remaining in the EU. If it comes to a Brexit, then London will be “at the back” in the queue for a trade agreement, Obama added at the time. Biden was Obama's vice president at the time. Johnson, who was the public face of the Vote Leave campaign at the time, countered in an article in the tabloid "Sun" that the "partly Kenyan President" probably suffered from an "inherited aversion" to Great Britain. It was just one of many racist statements Johnson has made over the years.
Last weekend, Tommy Vietor cleared up any last doubts about the fact that Johnson really doesn't like Johnson in the Obama-Biden camp. Obama's former spokesman on the United States National Security Council responded on Twitter to Johnson's congratulations to Biden with the words: "The shape-shifting creeper is involved. We will never forget your racist comments about Obama and your slavish devotion to Trump. "
The British media also speculated over the weekend as to which heads of state and government Biden would speak to first on the phone this week. And according to insiders, Merkel and Macron were at the top of the list. And Ireland's Prime Minister Micheál Martin could also have a turn before Johnson.
Biden election pushes Johnson to EU exit agreement
Ireland could finally bury London's wishes for a trade deal with Washington. The question of what will happen to the border between the Republic of Ireland and British-administered Northern Ireland after Brexit has overshadowed the negotiations between London and Brussels for years. Last year, Johnson gave in surprisingly - and agreed with the EU that Northern Ireland should remain in the customs union and the internal market for goods after Brexit. This is what it says in the exit agreement that Johnson signed earlier this year.
But then, a few weeks ago, Johnson's government published a bill that would violate essential parts of this international agreement. Some ministers even admitted that it was. Downing Street has since tried to portray the explosive planned law as a mere insurance policy in the event that negotiations with the EU fail. Brussels has since taken legal action against the UK. But London remains stubborn for the time being: The bill goes into the next round in Parliament in London this week.
The US House of Representatives spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi has already announced that she will block any trade deal with the UK if London violates the Good Friday Peace Agreement of 1998. And Biden - who attaches great importance to his Irish roots and has family ties to Ireland to this day - tweeted in September: "We cannot allow the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland, to become a victim of Brexit."
Many observers now believe that the gloomy prospects for a trade deal with the US could spur London’s willingness to come to an agreement with the EU after all. For weeks it has been rumored in London that the talks between London and Brussels have recently stalled mainly because Johnson wanted to wait and see how the presidential elections in the USA turn out. Lo and behold: EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier traveled from Brussels to London at the weekend to take part in talks that London had asked for. Prior to this, Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed by telephone to “stay in personal contact” in order to keep the talks going.
It remains to be seen whether this, presumably last attempt, will lead to a breakthrough. If so, the imminent change of government in Washington may have played a role in any case.
More on the subject: You never managed to step out of your father's shadow. What's next for Trump's children Ivanka, Eric & Co.?
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