Changing Course - The Future of "The Special Relationship"
As Biden places his hand on the bible at his inauguration tomorrow, a new chapter will open on America's role in the world. The interventionist, hawkish USA that has defined much of the last century will have well and truly returned to the fore and, regardless of political affiliations, the UK and Johnson’s government must use that fact to achieve its own foreign policy agenda. There are three main areas which Johnson must focus on - China, Brexit and an expansion on the “special relationship” in a more rhetorical sense.
The issue of China is not a new one, yet one which becomes increasingly more prevalent with each passing atrocity the CCP commits and every new line that they cross. A neocon President with a history of interventionism is the perfect opportunity for the UK to join forces with the US and use the “special relationship” to help mould the Biden administration’s approach to China. This must, of course, be done with caution - UK-USA joint interventionist efforts on the international stage have a chequered history to say the least - but properly designed bilateral economic and diplomatic sanctions against China could have a monumental impact. Not only would it be the concrete action that so many have criticised this government for failing to take against China, it would also be an opportunity to renew the UKs role in defining the geopolitical landscape it exists in. Biden’s premiership presents an opportunity to join in an anti-CCP coalition in a way that simply was not possible under the Trump administration who, whilst in staunch opposition to China by the end of it, preferred to go it alone than pursue common foreign policy objectives with the UK.
The second primary objective that Westminster must pursue with the new executive in DC is that of the future trade relationship between a newly global, outward looking Britain and a President who publicly professed that Britain would be “at the back of the queue” when it came to a trade deal in an attempt to force the UK Government to bend to the EU’s will in the Brexit negotiations. Whilst that particular spat appears to have been put to bed, and the UK is the first non-American country that Biden is likely to visit, rather than the last, Johnson must not rest on his laurels. This early healing of a seemingly fractured relationship must be turned into an overtly positive one between, not just two individuals closer together on the political spectrum than the media would have you believe, but nations with common economic and trade interests. As CANZUK edges ever closer to it’s full form and Britain has more trade strings in it’s bow than ever, it must use that strength to negotiate a trade deal befitting the global nation that this Government aspires to be.
The final, if more rhetorical, objective that Johnson and his government must aim to fulfill is that of repairing a “special relationship” that has been somewhat maligned for almost a decade and a half now. The calamity that unfolded between Blair and Bush damaged the transatlantic relationship more than either side cared to admit - it no longer represented positive outcomes economically, diplomatically and socially, but instead was tarnished by what appeared to be underhandedness, misinformation and actions many believe to this tad to amount to war crimes. Cameron and Obama went some way to repairing that relationship, but it was also one characterised by far more disagreement and lack of trust in private than there appeared to be in public. A positive public relationship with Biden might not only save the “special relationship” but also enable Johnson to shake the almost entirely inaccurate “Britain Trump” image that he has found himself saddled with by much of the UKs left leaning media.
Regardless of the characterisation of Biden’s foreign policy approach in the lead up to the election and throughout the formation of his cabinet, it counts for nothing before he is inaugurated. From tomorrow, US foreign policy changes course once again, as it does every four years, and the UK must make sure that it has a hand on the wheel.