So, how will Joe Biden’s victory affect US-UK relations? As I write in the Times, the downsides for this government are obvious. Biden fiercely opposed Brexit and those around him, like many on the American left, look to London and see a mini-Trump. They will regard other leaders from Merkel to Macron as more natural partners for them. The first phone calls are likely to go to them, not to Johnson. If the transition period ends without a trade deal and the Northern Ireland clauses of the Internal Market Bill come into force, that will further strain relations.
The bulk of Biden’s key appointments will need to be confirmed by the Senate, which will – depending on the Georgia run-offs – probably have a narrow Republican majority. This will lead to more emphasis on bipartisan foreign policy goals.
Perhaps Britain’s biggest win from a Biden presidency will be greater co-operation over climate change. This is a growing interest of the Johnson government, ahead of the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow next year. The Prime Minister is, in the words of one Downing Street source, ‘obsessed’ with it, regarding it as the perfect coming-out party for post-Brexit Britain. The US formally left the Paris Agreement on climate change on Wednesday: for it to rejoin a successor agreement, signed under British auspices this year, would be a significant diplomatic achievement.
The next biggest boon of a Biden presidency for the UK is, simply, that it will be far more predictable than Trump’s was. This will be particularly the case on dealing with Russia. And on China, there’ll be more continuity with the current administration than you might expect. The view of China as a hostile rival to the US is increasingly shared among the Bidenites. Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs under Obama and tipped for a job under Biden, said in a recent speech to the Policy Exchange think tank that he wanted to see ‘a cold-headed assessment of China’s ambitions and recognising that great power politics is going to be with us going forward’ continue under the Democrats.
Biden will, though, be more interested than Trump was in building alliances to try and contain China. This is why the idea of a D10 alliance of democracies, which the government intends to launch at the G7 meeting it is hosting next year, is particularly well timed.