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What does a Biden Presidency mean for Brexit?
26 Nov, 2020

If only it had come two years earlier, argues the Leader of the UK EPP and London4Europe Committee member Dirk Hazell! The UK would then have been much less likely to leave the EU’s customs union or even the Single Market.

There might well have been a further referendum - let’s not forget that a year or so ago we were so close - perhaps to stopping Brexit altogether.

As it is, one immediate effect of the US election has been to nudge the British government away from no deal and towards a sub-optimal deal with the EU.

The unceremonious departure from No 10 of Cain and Cummings is part of a wider story of “Britain’s Trump” now trying to re-define his premiership. Johnson is unlikely persuasively to succeed: he has far too much baggage.

While it may have more positive components (but expect more word than deed on the environment), in one sense Johnson’s attempted reorientation is not such good news.

The fatal car crash to which Britain was headed with a no deal Brexit would have made a positive, swift and dramatic reaction on the British political scene a realistic prospect.

But now, the combination of slower damage arising from a sub-optimal deal, with relentless government propaganda blaming COVID for Brexit’s consequences, may perhaps be just enough to enable the current political regime to limp on.

President Trump was heavily invested in Brexit. but his wider sentiment was pro-British. Such sentiment is unlikely to resonate as strongly within the counsels of a Biden Presidency (which will of necessity also have a very full agenda demanding ruthlessly focused prioritisation). From their perspective, Brexit is, at minimum, an avoidable and unhelpful time-wasting complication.

As many commentators have observed, President Biden can be expected to attach more weight than has President Trump to the world’s multilateral organisations. His presidency, like Obama’s, can be expected to give higher profile to legal frameworks (the Good Friday Agreement being only one example) and to values such as human rights and environmental protection.

This context is far more favourable to the rules-based EU than to a bombastically buccaneering Brexitory Britain.

It is also a much more positive political context for the mainstream centre-right family of the EPP European People’s Party and for our values, than it is for the motley populist-nationalist ghouls in the Conservative Party’s replacement European allies, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group.

Johnson’s regime is clearly pinning many hopes on being centre-stage at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in a year’s time.

But a USA administration serious about improving the global environment must focus on the world’s movers and shakers: the EU and China are among those outranking the UK.

Similarly, on trade deals, is the USA more likely to prioritise the UK or the EU, a market taking more than three times more US exports than does the UK?

There undoubtedly will be US-UK synergies - the City may return to its 1960s role of taking US-oriented business which the US authorities prefer or tolerate being off-shored. And mutual US-UK investment remains quite high. 

The government will emphasise the UK’s role - under-resourced as it increasingly is - in defence and the Five Eyes security alliance. One fear must be that, to avoid the perception of irrelevance which Tory MPs dread almost above all else, Brexit increases the temptation again to over-commit British blood to questionable overseas adventures.

But the simple truth is that the Conservative Party recklessly demolished the UK’s relevant status as the solid foundation of the USA’s transatlantic partnership within the EU.

Brexit in any form also risks a return to the periodic sterling crises of the earlier Post War period. Brexit will require transfers of resource from consumption and wages to capital: the opposite of the enhanced social market effectively promised by Leavers in 2016.

The reality of a Biden Presidency is more likely than not to clarify the historic error of Brexit.

One probable outcome is to present British governments (assuming the UK remains as an entity) with permanent tension as a victim - rather than as a successful arbitrageur - of any divergent US and EU regulatory standards (neither of which the UK will influence in the British interest).

The best future for the British people is for transatlantic partnership to prevail over rivalry. That requires our re-engagement within the EU. Sooner would be better than later.

Dirk Hazell, Leader UK EPP
London4Europe Committee

London4Europe blogs are edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.

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Christopher Bird
followed this page 2020-11-26 14:53:23 +0000
Andy Pye
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