This week, Nile Gardiner, director of Heritage’s Thatcher Center for Freedom, explains why Britain can’t stand President Joe Biden.
Michelle Cordero: From The Heritage Foundation, I'm Michelle Cordero. And this is Heritage Explains. Joe Biden is quickly becoming one of the most unpopular presidents in U.S. history at such an early stage of a presidency. Nine months in, his disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, the massive crisis on the Southern border, and a socialist-style big government agenda have American voters disappointed. Even CNN is worried. Here's CNN's John King discussing President Joe Biden's declining poll numbers.
John King: The President's approval rating is down to 44%. His disapproval is at 50%.
John King: If a year from now, the President's numbers are...
John King: ... like that...
Speaker: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John King: ... goodbye House, goodbye Senate, goodbye a lot of governor's races.
Cordero: So how is Joe Biden doing on the international stage? Nile Gardiner, whose op-ed Why Britain Can't Stand Joe Biden inspired today's episode, says that the anti-Biden sentiment outside of the U.S. is probably highest in the UK. He'll explain why after this short break.
Cordero: Nile, thank you so much for joining us.
Nile Gardiner: It's a great pleasure to be here. Thank you very much.
Cordero: So when did Joe Biden start off this bad relationship with the UK?
Gardiner: Well, I would say that it started on day one of his presidency when he decided to remove a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. That bust had actually been removed before by Barack Obama several years ago. And Joe Biden did the same after Donald Trump brought it back to the Oval Office when he was president. And so it's not a very good sign when a U.S. president removes a bust of a greatly revered British leader, Winston Churchill, who's not only, of course, loved by the British people but also by the American people as well. Winston Churchill stood up to the tyranny of Nazi Germany, and he led the free world together with the United States against fascism. And Joe Biden throws him out of the Oval Office on the first day. So not a very good sign.
Gardiner: So I would say that right from day one of this presidency Joe Biden has treated Britain in a absolutely abysmal fashion. He is a president who really doesn't show much interest at all in the U.S./UK special relationship. In fact, I would say that overall Biden's leadership on the world stage has been a monumental disaster. His treatment of the U.S./UK special relationship is one significant part of that.
Cordero: Did it make a difference that President Trump was already pretty popular across the pond?
Gardiner: Well, of course. You know, Donald Trump was in fact very popular with Brexit supporters in the United Kingdom. And in fact, Donald Trump had a very productive relationship actually with the British government headed by Boris Johnson. And so the reality is that under Donald Trump, America actually stood with its allies and its friends, especially with the United Kingdom. President Trump was a huge supporter of Brexit, and so Brexit supporters in the UK were generally very supportive of President Trump.
Gardiner: And Joe Biden in contrast is extremely anti-Brexit. He's somebody who has shown absolutely sneering disdain towards Brexit at every opportunity. He is somebody who treats U.S. allies in general with complete disdain and throws them under the bus as we saw over Afghanistan. And so, yeah, the reality is that the special relationship was very strong before Joe Biden actually became president.
Cordero: Okay. Let's talk about Afghanistan. Would you say that Afghanistan is the biggest bone that the British have to pick?
Gardiner: Yeah, I would say that Afghanistan is probably the biggest single issue in terms of tensions between London and Washington in the special relationship, but it's one of many. But without a doubt, I mean Afghanistan, the withdrawal was an incredible debacle. It was a humiliation for the United States, but also it was a humiliation for the NATO alliance. And the British were treated very badly with regard to the withdrawal. In fact, the British prime minister pleaded with President Biden to extend the timetable for the withdrawal in order to allow more time for British forces to get British citizens out of the country. Joe Biden flatly refused. And in fact, for 48 hours after the fall of Kabul, Joe Biden wouldn't even take the phone call to the British prime minister. And that, to me, is an absolute appalling decision to take for a U.S. president.
Gardiner: And the British feel that the whole Afghanistan withdrawal was an absolute monumental catastrophe and it was extremely badly handled. The British were not consulted with regard to the details of the withdrawal and the timing and so on. And the same goes for other US allies across Europe as well. And so Afghanistan was damaging not only the special relationship but also to the NATO alliance in addition to that. And I spoke to, over the last few weeks I've been to London twice, and I've spoken to dozens of British members of Parliament who have been absolutely scathing about Biden's handling of Afghanistan. I've spoken to many very senior figures in the British government who have been absolutely appalled by Biden's handling of Afghanistan.
Gardiner: So that's certainly the biggest single issue, but there are many others as well. And I would include within that list at the very top the issue of a U.S./UK free trade deal. Joe Biden has been very dismissive towards the idea of a U.S./UK free trade agreement. President Trump was very close actually to moving forward with a deal. There were several rounds of negotiations between London and Washington. Joe Biden came into office, poured cold water over it. This would be a trade deal between the world's largest and fifth-largest economies. It would be a very large-scale agreement that would actually create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic, would be great for investment in both the U.S. and the UK. And Joe Biden basically, for a multitude of reasons, decided not to move forward at this stage with such an agreement. And I find it absolutely staggering when a U.S. president won't move forward with a trade deal with America's closest friend and ally. I mean, it just beggars belief this kind of absolutely outright ridiculous thinking that exists in the White House at the moment. But that's how they treat America's friends and allies.
Gardiner: And then you throw into the mix as well Joe Biden's disdain for Brexit, his constant interference with the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Basically, the Biden administration is siding with the European Union over the issue of Northern Ireland, and that is causing a lot of unhappiness in London. In fact, a number of MPs in Westminster told me recently that their view is Biden just needs to mind his own business and keep out of British affairs. And Joe Biden wants to interfere in every single aspect of Brexit, frankly. And this is just not on. He needs to respect British sovereignty here. And he needs to understand that Britain has left the European Union. That ship has sailed. There's nothing to be gained by trying to turn back the clock here. He needs to accept the reality of Brexit, which is the will of the British people.
Cordero: So is it only conservatives that don't like him? What about those on the left in the UK?
Gardiner: Yeah, that's a very good question. And I did ask this very question to a very, very senior member of the House of Commons who has spent decades in Parliament and knows literally hundreds and hundreds of MPs. Anyway, I asked her this question and she told me that the animosity towards Biden is across the board. And she said that you wouldn't find a single MP from any political party who would go out of their way to say positive things about Joe Biden. And in large part that's the Afghanistan effect. I think that impacted across the board with all political parties.
Gardiner: But the reality is that Biden doesn't have any support in London across the board, although the British government, of course, is diplomatic and they will be polite about the Biden administration. But the reality is that for many British politicians Biden simply isn't trusted. And that's not just in the UK. That's across Europe. And I've spoken to dozens of European officials who say exactly the same thing, that Joe Biden isn't a leader to be trusted. They don't know what he's going to do next in terms of throwing America's partners under the bus. And so the thinking in London is it's not unusual in Europe, I mean it's across the board in practically every European country today.
Cordero: Hmm. So in conclusion, if he even cares, what would the Biden administration do to start to repair the special relationship?
Gardiner: Well, my view is that the Biden administration's a lost cause. It's the most left-wing U.S. presidency in American history. You know, this is an administration that doesn't really believe in the special relationship. And certainly my advice to British leaders is that they've got to look beyond Biden, post 2024 to potentially a conservative administration that actually supports the special relationship. And I have no faith whatsoever in this administration doing anything really constructive in terms of rebuilding, strengthening the special relationship. From what I've seen so far, this administration it has been a catastrophic failure with regard to relations with the United Kingdom.
Gardiner: The next three years will be a dark time for the special relationship. Things can get even worse. And you have a president who he shows a callous disregard for America's friends and allies. This is a president who threw 38 million Afghans to the Taliban wolves, including tens of millions of Afghan women who now have to live a life of servitude under a brutal, murderous dictatorship. And this is the president the United States has right now. And so he doesn't care about Great Britain or other friends and allies. And so I don't have any faith whatsoever in this administration rebuilding the special relationship.
Cordero: Fair enough. Nile, thank you so much for explaining to us why Britain can't stand Joe Biden, and we hope to have you back on soon.
Gardiner: It's my pleasure. Thank you very much.
Cordero: And that's it for this week's episode. I'll link to Nile's op-ed in our show notes. And while you're there with the link, if you like Heritage Explains, leave us a comment or a five-star rating. It really does make a difference and help compete with our liberal counterparts. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next week.