Biden Offends Brits on Brexit

The G7 meeting in Cornwall is just now breaking up, with world leaders contributing the usual positive spin. But Joe Biden struck a discordant note by taking up Barack Obama’s anti-Brexit position, even though Brexit is plainly, now, a reality. Nile Gardiner reports in the Telegraph:

The revelation that the Biden administration issued a “demarche” or diplomatic dressing down to the British government last week over its handling of the Northern Ireland border should cause outrage in Britain. This is the kind of treatment that is normally dished out to enemies of the United States, such as Russia, and hardly ever issued against a close ally.

As both The Telegraph and The Times have reported, Biden’s most senior diplomat in London delivered a firm rebuke on June 3 on behalf of the president to Brexit minister Lord Frost declaring that Britain’s stance on the Northern Ireland Protocol was jeopardising the future of the Northern Ireland peace process. To make matters even worse, Yael Lempert, Washington’s chargé d’affaires in London, issued a thinly veiled warning, linking the prospect of a US/UK free trade deal with White House demands for the UK to follow the European Union’s directives on agricultural standards.

The U.K. and the E.U. are engaged in a dispute over Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. but which the E.U. wants to treat as though it were a different country. For Biden to come down on the E.U. side of this controversy is both wrong and needless. But Biden is reflecting the pro-E.U., anti-Brexit stance of his old boss, Barack Obama.

In many respects, this is Joe Biden’s “back of the queue” moment. Barack Obama’s now infamous anti-Brexit intervention didn’t go down well back in 2016, and threats like this will always backfire with the British people, who don’t appreciate being lectured to by US presidents, not least one who displays his anti-British sentiments on his sleeve.
***
Biden’s Northern Ireland warning was a political cruise missile strike aimed directly at Boris Johnson and his Conservative government, with the intention of forcing a change in British policy. As a staunch Irish nationalist, Biden has frequently been critical of Great Britain over Northern Ireland, and now that he is president sees an opportunity to take it to task.

Old grudges are now being settled, and cultural differences between America’s far-left administration and Britain’s centrist government are coming to the fore:

There is no love lost between Biden’s team, many of whom served in the Obama administration, and Boris Johnson. Some of Biden’s extremely sensitive aides are still unhappy with the former Mayor of London for his sharp criticism of Barack Obama over the removal of the Winston Churchill bust from the Oval Office back in 2009. They also intensely dislike Brexit and Johnson’s formerly close partnership with the Trump presidency. In addition, they have been angered by the strong stance of the British government in the culture wars, with its firm rejection of the kind of “woke” liberal agenda that is now central to the thinking of the Biden operation.

It is striking that Joe Biden’s foray into domestic U.K. politics had no possible legitimate purpose, in terms of advancing American interests. It was purely an effort to advance a global left-wing agenda by supporting the European Union over an independent Great Britain.

And yet, such is the power of the United States, even under the feckless Joe Biden, that Boris Johnson has made conciliatory noises about what must be, to him, a thoroughly noxious administration. Nile Gardiner is more candid:

The arrogance of the Biden administration ahead of the G7 meeting in Cornwall has been nothing short of breathtaking. This is no way to treat America’s closest friend and ally. The British people didn’t vote for Joe Biden and the Democrats. They voted for Brexit and Boris Johnson’s Conservatives. They voted to leave the EU and take back control of Britain’s destiny.
***
Biden takes a very different approach to Trump when it comes to Europe and Brexit. He is a Eurofederalist at heart, who as vice president under Obama remarked in a speech before the European Parliament in 2010 that Brussels had a legitimate claim to be the “capital of the free world”.

That is as good a place as any to leave it.

Responses