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The risking of the special relationship?

Whilst Joe Biden’s election was met with jovial singing in the streets of New York City, some abstained from partaking in the festivities after it was reported that Biden does not care for the UK’s very own Boris Johnson. Not only could this (albeit, anticipated) revelation risk the UK’s important Special Relationship with the US, but it has led many hard-Brexiteers to worry that their promised trade deals will be sacrificed at the altar of disrupted comradeship.


In an article published hours after the calling of the election, the Business Insider aptly stated that the two world leaders ‘are not natural bedfellows’. It has been long-said that the current UK Prime Minister and incumbent President have similar leadership styles, and this has not gone unnoticed by the new President-Elect, who made headlines last December by calling Johnson ‘kind of a physical and emotional clone’ of Donald Trump. This assertion is corroborated by the similarities noted by the Biden campaign between staff members that are integral to Johnson and Trump’s governments. Johnson’s Dominic Cummings, the anti-establishment former chief advisor damned by the media for breaking lockdown, is recurrently compared to the Trump’s policy advisor, Stephen Miller, who was largely instrumental in the orchestrating of both the controversial travel ban (‘Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States) in 2017, and the infamous separation of migrant children from their parents at America’s borders.

Biden’s personal disdain for the UK PM stems from a medley of different reasons, but can most convincingly be linked to Johnson’s 2016 comments about Barack Obama, when the former asserted that the latter’s ‘part-Kenyan’ heritage meant that he had an ‘ancestral dislike of the British empire’. The vocalising of this grossly offensive judgement was wholly ill-advised in a political and diplomatic sense. As social media can tell you from the generation of innumerable heart-warming memes about it, Obama and Biden’s relationship is more than just political. Their sharing of the Oval Office led to them becoming ‘family’, and Biden, unfortunately for Johnson, ‘has a long memory’.

Reports of Biden’s ‘genuine hostility’ towards Johnson have anguished many hard-line Brexiteers, who were hopeful about forging an economy-boosting trade deal with the US following the UK’s withdrawal from the single market on the continent. Without such a trade deal, Brexit is instantly less appealing, as the historic departure was sold to the UK’s population as an opportunity to pursue better trade agreements with world leaders, one of whom is America. Last week, the Scotsman’s Joyce McMillan reported that Biden’s election could already be persuading Johnson to ‘rat on his hard-Brexiteer allies’, something which many could be forgiven for suspecting in light of Johnson’s history of alliance-jumping when optimal partnership prospects change.

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Others have feared that Biden’s election risks the UK’s Special Relationship with the US, a historic friendship that has been cited by decades of politicians since the term’s first use in a 1946 post-war speech made by Winston Churchill. Many suggest that Biden’s personal disdain for Johnson will only worsen as they work alongside one another, with Johnson’s leadership, if it is to follow the trajectory of Trump’s, clashing dissonant with the integrity of the US’s new head-office-holder.

However, the Special Relationship has featured during, and endured throughout, many conflicts and historical events, including both World Wars, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the ‘War on Terror’. The relationship between Britain’s mini-Trump and America’s anti-Trump-incarnate might not be peachy, but it will take more than differing opinions and personal disdain to sever ties that have been time-hardened for over a century now.

Image: Wikimedia Commons