WASHINGTON (TBEN) — President Joe Biden left for the United Kingdom on Saturday to pay his respects to Queen Elizabeth II at a time of transition in US-UK relations as both a new monarch and prime minister settle in. .
Prime Minister Liz Truss’s aggressive approach to Russia and China puts her on the same page as Biden. But the rise of Truss, 47, who once called the US-UK relationship “special but not exclusive,” could mark a decidedly new chapter in the transatlantic partnership on trade and more.
A major concern for Biden officials in the early departure of Truss’s premiership is her support for legislation that would destroy parts of the post-Brexit trade deals in Northern Ireland. Analysts say the move could spark major tensions between the UK and the European Union and undermine peace in Northern Ireland. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the move “would not create a favorable environment” for the signing of a much-anticipated US-UK trade deal that Truss and her conservative party are aiming for.
“She has indicated that she is willing to go to the mattresses for this and that will create a rift not only between the UK and the EU, but also between the UK and the US,” said Max Bergmann, Europe Program Director. at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a former senior State Department official in the Obama administration. “It’s one that will keep the White House up at night.”
Biden and Truss were due to meet on Sunday, but the prime minister’s office said on Saturday they would skip the weekend hello and instead opt for a meeting at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, although Truss still planned to get together with other world leaders who gather in London for the royal funeral. The White House confirmed the UN meeting just as the president boarded Air Force One.
The two close allies are now in a period of political uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic. Like his fellow Septuagarian Biden, King Charles III is facing questions from the public as to whether his age will limit his ability to faithfully perform the monarch’s duties.
Charles, 73, and Biden, 79, discussed global cooperation on the climate crisis last year, while both attended a summit in Glasgow, Scotland. They also met at Buckingham Palace in June 2021 at a reception the Queen hosted for a summit of world leaders in Cornwall.
Truss, like Biden, faces questions about whether she has what it takes to lift a country ravaged by persistent inflation due to the coronavirus pandemic and exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that unleashing chaos in the global energy market.
All the while, Britain – and the rest of Europe – are watching intently to see what the upcoming US midterm elections will bring for the Democratic US president, after he vowed when he took office that “America is back” to a to be a full partner in the international community after four years of Republican Donald Trump pushing his ‘America First’ worldview.
“It is certainly a time of change and transformation in the UK,” said Barbara A. Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. She added: “We don’t know what will happen during our midterm exams. We don’t know what will happen in 2024.”
Truss, a former accountant who was first elected to parliament in 2010, has not had much contact with Biden. The US president called her earlier this month to congratulate her. Truss, as Secretary of State, accompanied her predecessor, Boris Johnson, on a visit to the White House last year.
It has been more than 75 years since Winston Churchill stated that there was a “special relationship” between the two nations, an idea that leaders on both sides have repeatedly affirmed. Still, there have been bumps along the way.
Tony Blair was derisively branded as George W. Bush’s “poodle” by British tabloids for supporting the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. David Cameron and Barack Obama had a ‘bromance’, but Obama also had his frustrations with the British about defense spending and the way the UK handled Libya after the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan forged a close alliance in the middle of the Cold War, with the Prime Minister once telling students that the Republican president’s “really good sense of humor” helped their relationship. But there were also difficulties, such as when Thatcher and members of her cabinet opposed the Reagan administration’s initial neutrality in the Falklands War.
The White House hadn’t expected Truss’ announcement in May when she was secretary of state that the government would go through with legislation that would rewrite parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The agreement was part of the UK’s 2020 Brexit withdrawal from the EU, intended to avoid a hard north-south border with Ireland that could disrupt Northern Ireland’s fragile peace.
Now, in the early weeks of Truss’s premiership, officials in the Biden government are carefully taking the benchmark of the new British leader. Analysts say there is some trepidation in the government that undercutting Northern Ireland protocolold could plunge Europe into trade turmoil at a time when Biden is working vigorously to keep the West united in confronting Russia over its aggression against Ukraine.
“Brexit could become the problem again – the one that could make it difficult for all of Europe to work together at a time when it is critical for Europe to work together,” Bergmann said. “If you are the Biden administration, this is not the time for the two of your closest partners to argue.”
To be sure, there were areas of friction between Biden and Johnson, who had a warm rapport with former President Donald Trump.
Biden had strongly opposed Brexit as a candidate and had expressed deep concern about the future of Northern Ireland. Biden even once mocked Johnson as a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump.
Johnson did his best to overcome that impression, highlighting his common ground with Biden on climate change, support for international institutions, and most importantly, making sure Britain was an early and generous member of the US-led alliance that seeks economic development. and military aid to Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion.
The former prime minister also unsuccessfully pressed Biden early days into his administration to begin negotiations on a new US-UK trade deal just as the UK was regaining control of its national trade policy weeks before Biden took office and after the end of a post-market deal. Brexit transition period.
But Biden remained largely focused on his domestic to-do list early in his presidency — passing trillions in spending on coronavirus aid, infrastructure and more — and put trade deal negotiations on the back burner.
Elliot Abrams, chair of the conservative foreign policy group Vandenberg Coalition, said Truss needs Biden to make a new US-UK trade deal a priority. Queen Elizabeth’s funeral will not be the setting for heavy bilateral talks, but it is still a time for the two leaders to take stock of each other.
Truss, who succeeded Johnson after he was forced to resign over a string of scandals, has lagged in the polls. She also won her election by a smaller margin than her recent predecessors and is looking for an early win.
“I think if I were (Truss), I want recognition of the leading role that Britain has played, far more than any other country outside the United States in supporting Ukraine,” said Abrams, who was a senior citizen. on national security and foreign policy in the United States. Trump, George W. Bush and Reagan administrations. “And I think I would like to send a positive economic message to the British people, which is that the FTA negotiations are about to start.”