Donald Trump may have turned in a more effective debate performance last night, but Joe Biden is still the favourite to win the election next month. So, how would No. 10 deal with the election of a president who was so opposed to Brexit?
There’s little doubt that the first few months of a Biden presidency would be awkward for this government. As I say in the Times today, Biden will concentrate on repairing ties with the European Union, France and Germany. This making nice will be part of how he shows the world he is moving on from Trump – and it will make Britain feel distinctly left out.
But next year, the UK has the presidency of both the G7 and COP26. Britain intends to use next year’s G7 to launch the ‘D10’, an alliance of democratic states that No. 10 is keen to nurture as a counterweight to China. South Korea, India and Australia will be invited, along with the usual G7 members. The idea of this new alliance has already drawn interest from Biden’s circle, it has obvious potential in terms of dealing with a more assertive Beijing. It is also a reminder that no country will be more aligned with US foreign policy goals under Biden than Britain: for France, Nato will be a tricky issue, as it always is, and Germany’s strong economic relationship with China complicates its attitude to Beijing.
Biden will be keen to show that the US is turning the page on Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda. The most obvious way to do that would be to re-enter the climate change agreement from which Trump withdrew. By good fortune, Britain is also hosting the (delayed) UN climate change conference in Glasgow next year, COP26. That summit is where it would make sense for the US to show the constructive role it now intends to play.
Johnson and Biden will never forge an ideological bond in the way that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan did, or Clinton and Tony Blair. But they have the chance of forming a serviceable relationship.