Biden saw echoes of Trump in Boris Johnson. Will it complicate the US-UK ‘special relationship’?


The most damaging indictment, nevertheless, got here from a former Barack Obama spokesperson, Tommy Vietor, who tweeted: “This shapeshifting creep weighs in. We will never forget your racist comments about Obama and slavish devotion to Trump.”

A Biden aide instructed CNN that “President-elect Biden believes deeply in the special relationship, and he looks forward to making that partnership even stronger. To be sure, our British allies are indispensable partners across the range of challenges, and that view is uniformly held among those close to the President-elect.”

However, the notion that Johnson is a Trump-style chief — whether or not it is truthful or not — has traveled throughout the Atlantic. Indeed, Biden himself was reported to have described Johnson as a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump final December.

American and British authorities officers instructed CNN that, whereas they consider the two leaders may have a practical working relationship, there is perhaps boundaries as a result of of persona variations.

The “racist comments about Obama” that Vietor refers to happened throughout the 2016 Brexit referendum. Obama had reluctantly intervened in the Brexit debate, saying he would favor the UK to remain in the European Union. In response, Johnson — not the prime minister at the time, however a Conservative lawmaker and one of the main figures in the Brexit marketing campaign — wrote that “the part-Kenyan President” had an “ancestral dislike of the British empire.”

Tyson Barker, a former State Department official underneath President Obama and Vice President Biden, instructed CNN “there is a distaste for Boris Johnson’s populism and his willingness to lie. That might irk people at lower levels of a Biden administration.” However, he added that Biden’s “political instinct is to be a healer and I cannot see how that would not extend to the UK.”

‘Trumpian’ chief

The UK authorities could be very conscious that this notion of Johnson as “Trumpian” exists in some corners of Washington, and there seems to be an actual effort to get forward of any uncomfortable first introductions.

“There’s a whole bunch of areas where our priorities do align,” stated a senior determine in Johnson’s authorities, including that “there is a bit of relief on our side that we are going to be dealing with someone more consistent and reliable.”

A spokesperson for Johnson was equally upbeat when briefing journalists on Monday, saying that “the Prime Minister is looking forward to working with the President-elect in the weeks and months ahead” — a remark that dangers drawing the ire of Trump, who’s but to simply accept the end result of the election and considers Johnson a “friend.”

UK's 'special relationship' with the US is more fragile than ever. Just when Boris Johnson is banking on it

Even if Biden and Harris are capable of transfer past any preconceived concepts concerning Johnson personally, Biden has publicly criticized a central pillar of the Prime Minister’s Brexit technique.

Earlier this yr, Johnson launched a invoice that, although very technical, might pressure the want for a border between Ireland, an EU member state, and Northern Ireland, which leaves the Brexit transition interval, together with the relaxation of the UK, at the finish of this yr if no commerce deal is agreed.

A British cupboard minister has admitted that elements of the invoice would breach the Withdrawal Agreement that London signed with Brussels, thus breaking worldwide regulation.

The worry that many, together with Biden, have is that any sort of border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland dangers a return of the sectarian violence in the ’60s, ’70s, 80’s and 90’s which left greater than 3,500 lifeless.

Biden despatched Johnson an unambiguous message in September. “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” he stated. “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.”

This raises rather a lot of points for the UK. A complete commerce take care of the US was beforehand introduced as one of the many golden carrots awaiting Brits post-Brexit. This implies that Johnson both has to drop his controversial invoice, at present going by the UK parliament, or make concessions to the EU in order to strike a proper commerce deal. Both would keep away from the Biden ultimatum, however each threat making him look weak at residence.

Peacemaker or punisher?

With so many variations, no less than on the floor, how probably is an effective relationship between the President-elect and the PM?

A US official instructed CNN that every one hope was not misplaced for Johnson. “If you look at the fact Biden is reaching out to Republicans as we speak, I would say that’s a good sign for any foreign leader who wants a good relationship with the President-elect.”

One concern that has been raised a number of instances in the UK is the prospect of Biden desirous to punish the UK over Brexit, given his and Obama’s opposition to it in 2016.

However, Barker factors out that though “the Good Friday Agreement is a super red line” for Biden, “he realises he’s a transition president and what he is going to do is ensure that these alliances are on solid ground for whatever comes next — which could even be another Trumpian candidate.”

A State Department official appeared to agree, telling CNN that “if David Lammy [an anti-Brexit British lawmaker] can say, ‘I didn’t vote for it, but I accept this is where we are,’ then Joe Biden, who is a foreign policy expert and a pragmatist … he’s going to find a way to make a good relationship with the UK.”

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It’s the not understanding that may concern Downing Street. “We’re not pretending everything’s OK and going to be dandy,” stated the senior authorities determine — however they see cause for hope.

On Monday night, Johnson appeared eager to play up the frequent floor between him and Biden and Harris, significantly on environmental points.

“One thing that is very exciting that you’re already seeing from the incoming administration is their willingness to join the UK in the campaign to tackle climate change,” he stated. “The UK has been leading in calling … for countries to get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. And suddenly with the advent of President-elect Biden, we’re seeing the US really willing to take a lead too on climate change, which I think is great news.”

The UK is internet hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference subsequent yr, in addition to taking the presidency of the G7, the place Johnson may look to roll out the crimson carpet. The authorities determine stated “the UK will obviously seek to use the G7 and COP26 to give Biden a platform to set out his foreign policy position.”

By that time, Brexit may have been resolved and Downing Street hopes it may have sufficiently satisfied Biden that the allies agree in areas starting from China’s hostility to cyber safety and interference in elections, in order that the US and the UK — outdoors the EU — can forge a brand new, stronger relationship in areas the place that has beforehand been not possible.

But till Biden finds the time to talk with Johnson, it’s going to be a tense look forward to the Prime Minister, as he is left to think about what the subsequent President’s first phrases might be when the two lastly get on the telephone.



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