US President Joe Biden spends the day in Belfast meeting with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and delivering a speech at Ulster University. His visit marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the peace deal which ended 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland. (Photo by )
President Biden’s insulting decision to prioritize Ireland over the U.K. on his visit to mark the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement should have come as no surprise. It is just as unsurprising as his decision to skip the coronation of King Charles III. Biden, like Barack Obama before him, has shown nothing but contempt for Great Britain and the Special Relationship.
Biden began his presidency in 2021 by removing a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. Sculpted by Jacob Epstein, it had originally been loaned to the American people by then Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the wake of the barbaric 9/11 terror attacks on the United States. It had pride of place in George W Bush’s White House, but was ousted by Obama when he took office in 2009. Donald Trump brought it back at the start of his presidency in 2017, but Biden saw fit to remove it as soon as he entered the White House.
Biden’s insult towards Churchill and his memory set the tone for his presidency. His approach towards Britain, traditionally America’s closest friend and ally, has been sneering, arrogant and disrespectful. With deep roots in Ireland, Biden’s track record as a U.S. Senator and Washington politician for half a century has been one of unyielding support for the Irish Republican cause. As recently as 2017 he was photographed with Gerry Adams and erstwhile IRA fugitive Rita O’Hare.
As Vice President in 2015, Biden quipped that no one wearing orange (the colour of British Unionists in Northern Ireland) would be welcome in the White House, while meeting the then Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny, sparking outrage. No wonder he has had little success in coaxing the Unionists back into Northern Ireland power-sharing.
It is not hard to see why a U.S. president with this track record would thumb his nose at the new King, either. For Biden, the British Monarchy is not something to be celebrated or revered. In his eyes it is an anachronism, an outdated remnant of the Empire. His decision not to attend the Coronation is not an issue of advancing age, difficulty of scheduling, or an unwillingness to spend time away from pressing domestic duties at home. It is a deliberate snub of the Royal Family.
Yes, it is true that no U.S. president has ever attended the Coronation of a British monarch. But the last Coronation, of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, was 70 years ago, in the aftermath of World War Two, in a completely different era.
The message Biden is sending to America’s most vital partner on the world stage is an appalling one. The British Government has made light of this decision, in order to avoid any kind of diplomatic spat with Washington. Biden has, meanwhile, accepted the invitation of a state visit. Yet the harsh reality remains that America today is led by a petty and at times vindictive president, who thinks nothing of lecturing Britain over its Northern Ireland policy, and issuing stark warnings to Downing Street that a U.S./U.K. trade deal will not be on the agenda unless it plays ball over Irish issues and the EU.
An additional factor shaping Biden’s treatment of Britain is his intense animosity towards Brexit, and his adoration of the European Union. In a groveling speech to the European Parliament in 2010, Biden declared that Brussels had “its own legitimate claim” to be “the capital of the free world,” a ludicrous assertion that surely no one even in the European Commission actually believes. Over a decade later as president, Biden has shamelessly appeased the EU and its powerhouses of Paris and Berlin, while often treating London with barely disguised menace and disdain.
Joe Biden is increasingly portrayed on both sides of the Atlantic as a bumbling, gaffe-prone president who mumbles his words, and can be strikingly incoherent in public settings. This is an accurate assessment.
Yet at the same time he knows exactly what he is doing in his treatment of the U.K. He is putting two fingers up to the monarchy, Great Britain and its illustrious history. President Biden is no friend of the British people.
This piece originally appeared in The Telegraph