Liz Truss is rightly expected to make the Special Relationship a very top foreign policy priority. The alliance with the United States is the most powerful bilateral partnership in the world and is vital to the British national interest. As former foreign secretary and international trade secretary she has been a champion of working closely with Washington on everything from the war in Ukraine to confronting the rising threat of Communist China.
Like Margaret Thatcher before her, Truss understands that British power on the world stage is greatly enhanced by its closeness to the United States. But in contrast to the great Iron Lady, the new Prime Minister has to work with a Left-wing Democrat administration in Washington that on some issues has been downright unhelpful, and even hostile towards the U.K. This has been emphatically the case with Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol, where the White House, together with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has been siding with the European Union, and actively undercutting British efforts to amend the Protocol.
Joe Biden is no Ronald Reagan. He is not instinctively pro-British, and his advisers are intensely anti-Brexit and pro-EU. He has been lukewarm towards the idea of a U.S./U.K. trade deal, and in contrast to his predecessor, Donald Trump, has done little to advance trade negotiations between London and Washington.
Biden’s Congressional allies on Capitol Hill have outrageously threatened to sink a trade deal with the U.K. if the British seek to change the Northern Ireland Protocol, falsely claiming this would damage the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and lead to the return of sectarian bloodshed. And Biden himself, a decades-long supporter of Irish nationalism, has compared Irish Catholics living in Northern Ireland to Palestinians in the West Bank.
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This is no way to treat America’s closest friend and ally, and hugely counterproductive as Great Britain and the United States jointly lead the free world in standing up to Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine.
Joe Biden also heads a U.S. administration that in many respects is vastly ideologically distant from the pro-free market approach of the new British Government. Biden is a high tax, big government president who leads a party that is increasingly viewed as socialist in outlook by its critics, with a distinctly woke cultural agenda as well. Biden’s massively expensive spending proposals are the polar opposite of the new thinking in Downing Street, which is focused on advancing economic freedom rather than growing the size of the state.
In his dealings with President Biden, Boris Johnson was risk averse, and avoided direct confrontation with his American counterpart. Relations were not particularly close, however, and some Biden aides who had served in the Barack Obama administration were resentful of critical comments Johnson had made as Mayor of London about Obama’s highly controversial removal of a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office.
Johnson’s successor will travel to the United States later this month to attend the U.N. General Assembly, and very likely to Washington as well, where she must be willing to forcefully stand up to Biden and his administration over Brexit and Britain’s plans to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol. The message must be sent loud and clear to the Biden White House and to Democrats in Congress that the British Government will firmly defend British national sovereignty and self-determination, and will protect the integrity of the United Kingdom.
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Ms Truss should reject any attempt by Biden’s administration or its allies to link the Protocol issue with an Anglo-American trade agreement, and directly call on the US president to accelerate negotiations to get a deal done. If she does so, she will be backed by Congressional conservatives, who are highly supportive of striking a deal with the UK, and who could well retake control of the House and the US Senate in November.
My former boss, Lady Thatcher, would have stood her ground if faced with a Biden Presidency. She would have strongly fought for British interests, and powerfully confronted any threats against Britain made by a U.S. president or his allies on Capitol Hill. Liz Truss must do the same. There is nothing to be gained from timidity or deference in facing the Biden presidency. Strength and resolve are the best way forward when dealing with the current U.S. administration.
This piece originally appeared in The Telegraph