Joe Biden: Expert discusses potential US-UK trade deal
US President Joe Biden has already shown he is dedicated to restoring international relations with some of Washington’s closest allies just weeks after his inauguration. With decades of foreign policy experience under his belt, the former Senator and Vice President has called for a “reset” for America’s slipping position on the world stage. However, many in Downing Street feared the new anti-Brexit President would choose to prioritise trade deals and its transatlantic alliance with the EU over deepening the “special relationship”.
This concern was compounded by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s close association with Mr Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump.
But Peter Rough, former director of research to George W Bush, told Express.co.uk that Mr Biden would have sided with the UK if the recent spat with the bloc over the Northern Ireland Protocol had escalated.
He said: “Had Article 16 been invoked on the vaccine border between the Irish and Northern Ireland, just as the Biden team warned Great Britain on a hard border in the withdrawal agreement, I suspect that they would have supported the UK over the EU had the EU actually gone for it.
“That’s my sense and feel within Washington.”
He also told Express.co.uk: “Had the EU proceeded to harden the NI-Ireland border, as it threatened, London would have found a sympathetic voice in Washington.
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“But since they pulled back, I don’t see this specific issue as having long-term effects.”
The fallout in question stunned the international community just last month, when Brussels took dramatic action and temporarily jeopardised its relationship with the UK.
The EU was infuriated after UK-based coronavirus vaccine developer AstraZeneca announced it would not be able to produce the promised supplies for the bloc.
Although the production failure was allegedly due to a delay at a Belgian plant, the EU hit out and suggested the UK should pass some of its own vaccine supplies to the bloc.
Downing Street refused, and in a staggering turn of events Brussels evoked the emergency measure of Article 16 in the Northern Ireland Protocol, of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Article 16 can be invoked by either the UK or the EU to unilaterally suspend elements of the operations either side of the border if it’s said to be causing “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.
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How the Northern Ireland Protocol operates under the withdrawal agreement
This move aimed to prevent any unimpeded vaccine supplies passing from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland.
It prompted international outrage and instant accusations that the EU was exercising vaccine nationalism — just hours later, Brussels withdrew the emergency measure.
While this appears to be an internal issue between the UK and the EU, the Biden administration has been clear from the start that it would not support any action which would risk reigniting violence on the Irish border.
As he is proud of his own Irish heritage, Mr Biden has stated that he does not want a hard border so that the Good Friday Agreement of 1997 is still honoured.
Writing in a tweet before he entered office, Mr Biden explained: “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become 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.”
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As the EU is also pushing for a deal with the States, it’s likely Mr Biden would have used the same logic regarding a deal with the bloc if it compromised the Irish border.
Mr Rough claimed that the EU’s growing difficulties with the vaccine rollout would not have had a serious impact on the transatlantic relationship with the US.
But, he suggested, it would have cast Britain in a much better light.
He explained: “I do think that Britain’s success in rolling out its vaccine relative to the EU is emblematic of a broader dynamic, though.
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“The vaccine imbroglio showed how the EU can be lumbering and bureaucratic; by contrast, the UK has a real opportunity to unleash its economy and innovation now that it’s left the EU.
“This buccaneering spirit would make the UK a hugely attractive partner.”
However, Washington has indicated that it has no intention of hurrying through any trade deals any time soon and wants to focus on its domestic policies for now.