2020 United States presidential elections: what does the United Kingdom have to lose?

With the US presidential election well underway, the consequences of impending results have come to the forefront of the UK’s political radar.

Aside from the importance of the ‘special relationship’, this election’s results will be particularly significant to UK citizens as they will determine the UK-US post-Brexit trade deal in January when the UK will stop following EU trade rules.

The US is the UK’s second-biggest market, and so reaching a favourable deal that would maintain low tariffs on imported goods is essential. If elected, Trump would enact this trade deal with haste, whereas Biden would favour a slower negotiation to salvage US relations with the EU.

Currently, UK food imports must meet EU standards. Still, there is fear that Trump will implicate fewer restraints on US agricultural products sold in the UK in the renegotiation, a predicament recognisable in public outcry over imported chlorinated chickens.

This negotiation will also include medical prices, which the UK has contended, unwilling to have NHS drug prices renegotiated by US Big Pharma companies. Both these issues are priorities for the Trump administration’s second term, but Biden’s stance is likely to be less forthright.

Once referring to Johnson as ‘Britain’s Trump’, Trump and Johnson have maintained reasonably amicable relations during his presidency, supporting the two countries’ history of financial, military and diplomatic connection.

Nevertheless, Trump has more generally worn on US-UK relations in his presidency, with only 19% of Britons having confidence in him (Pew Research Centre). Whether Trump escalates his agenda and disregards electoral constraints in his second term or takes a more mediated approach- will decide whether the UK can make a favourable Brexit trade deal or whether the transatlantic divide will widen in foreign policy decisions.

If Trump takes the first approach, there is a real risk of the US being drawn even further from NATO and pushing for the curbing of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. This approach would increase Europe’s defence spending and encourage Britain to split from EU nations or risk tougher US sanctions on nuclear arms.

A Biden presidency would be less unpredictable and hostile to international organisations to repair global partnerships and transatlantic relations, albeit maintaining a strict approach to Russia and China.

Additionally, Biden’s environmental ambitions would improve US-UK climate change relations, especially pertinent considering the COP26 to agree to new targets is taking place in Glasgow next year. However, Biden is not Johnson’s most generous supporter and opposes Brexit, with his Irish heritage influencing his concern for the Brexit hard border’s effects on Ireland’s economy and domestic peace.

Regardless of the election result, the US’ gradual retreat from global leadership might continue, as, even despite Biden’s internationalist outlook, he has promised to focus on domestic policy and job protection.

Finally, with the US’ post-Brexit shift to focusing on its partnership with Germany and France, Britain will have to adopt a more independent role in global policy. More locally, however, a change in administration could lead Scotland to renew economic, social and cultural connections with the US.

Image: (top), (bottom) Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons