What does Biden’s win mean for Brexit?

Lisa O'Carroll Brexit correspondent
·3-min read

A Joe Biden victory will have “big consequences for Brexit”, those close to the talks on the EU side have said, forcing the UK to think again over its approach to Northern Ireland and threat to disapply the withdrawal agreement.

Chris Coons, a close friend of Biden and a potential US secretary of state, told the BBC that Biden will want to “reimagine” the US’s transatlantic policy, the special relationship with the UK and its relationship with the EU, damaged by Donald Trump.

On Northern Ireland, he warned: “I would expect to be concerned about making sure that the Good Friday accords are respected and protected and that the ways in which the UK EU terms are negotiated doesn’t put at risk the stability of the border terms in Northern Ireland”.

There is speculation that Biden’s first visit to Europe could be to Brussels and not London, Berlin or Paris, a clear sign that that the US wants to rebuild its relationship with Europe and repair the damage wrought by Trump in Nato, which is headquartered in Brussels, and through trade wars with Germany.

And there will be a reset in the approach of the US on trade talks with the UK. Biden was Barack Obama’s vice-president who warned the UK would be at the back of the queue over Brexit. But he has more recently made his views clear – warning that if the UK government opts for no deal and in doing so carries out its threat to override parts of the the withdrawal agreement signed in January relating to the Northern Ireland protocol, there will be no trade deal with the UK.

In September, he said the Good Friday agreement, which ended decades of bloody conflict in the region, cannot be “a casualty of Brexit”. “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,” he said.

His views on the internal market bill will not, however, translate into a total reset for US-UK trade talks.

Georgie Wright, of the Institute for Government, says that if anything, Brexit will spur on the US to strike a trade deal with the UK as it could be a means of prizing open the door again for a trade deal with the EU.

Those on the EU side say both the US and Brussels have huge teams of negotiators and would have the capacity to run multiple talks.

“Trade is not top of the US agenda at the moment. After four years of the ‘America first’ doctrine, the Republicans don’t want any more trade deals, and the Democrats aren’t too hot on them either,” said Wright.

“It is hard to see how Biden would get a trade deal through Congress and a Republican Senate. But, it does see one advantage to a trade deal with the UK – and that is the possibility of gaining a foothold in Europe which could use as a way of extracting more more access from the EU. The thinking goes ‘if the UK, which has similar standards, accepts our goods – why can’t the EU market?’”she said.

Anthony Gardner, a former American ambassador to the EU, recently told an audience in Germany that while Brexit was bad, Biden valued the trans-Atlantic relationship with Europe and with the UK.

“Here’s a dramatic difference: Donald Trump has only believed that the US-UK link was important, he was a cheerleader for Brexit. Joe Biden believes that the triangle of relationships, US-UK, UK-EU, US and EU, all have to work together, and you will see statements to that effect,” said Gardner.