Biden advisor says the US-UK “special relationship”may not matter any more because of Brexit

Posted By: November 14, 2020

Adam Payne. Business Insider. Nov 9, 2020.

• A foreign policy advisor to President-elect Joe Biden gave a frank assessment of the US-UK relationship.
• Charles Kupchan, who previously worked for both Obama and Clinton, said Britain’s global influence was shrinking and that it had been overtaken by France as a partner to the US.
• This was partly due to Brexit, “act of self-isolation,” he told the UK’s Times Radio on Monday morning.
• He said “the relationship between the US and UK will be fine. I’m just not sure if it’s going to matter that much.”
• The British press has been awash with reports of coldness between Biden and Boris Johnson since the former secured the presidency over the weekend.
• Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A foreign policy advisor to President-elect Joe Biden has said that Britain’s declining influence in the world, caused by Brexit, meant that the US’ relationship with the UK might not “matter that much” once Biden is in the White House.

Business Insider reported on Saturday that Biden’s team is wary of Johnson due to his closeness with Trump and his 2016 remark about Obama’s “part-Kenyan” heritage.

Now Charles Kupchan, an informal foreign policy advisor to the Biden campaign who previously served in the Clinton and Obama administrations , told the UK’s Times Radio that while he’s “confident there will be a special relationship” between the US and United Kingdom, he didn’t know whether “that special relationship will take the form of anything more than a comfortable old friendship that doesn’t really produce much in terms of cooperation.”

He said that Britain’s 2016 decision to leave the European Union was “an act of self-isolation,” and that when he worked for President Obama, “Brexit started to be priced into the relationship with the UK, which began to take a hit.”

President-elect Biden has already made one high-profile intervention in the Brexit debate.

In September, he warned Boris Johnson’s UK government that there would be no free trade agreement with the US after Brexit if its controversial plans for Northern Ireland led to the return of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland or threatened the peace agreement. Biden is set to reiterate this warning to Johnson directly using “strong words,” the BBC reported over the weekend.

However, even before Brexit, “Britain was no longer the bridge to Europe it had been” for the US, Kupchan said on Monday morning.

“The United Kingdom alone does not cut a large figure on the international landscape, and as a consequence I do worry that, moving forward, whether the issue is Ukraine, Iran, or China, or Russia, the UK, is going to have to figure out how to make itself relevant at a time when it is very inwardly focused.

“So the relationship between the US and UK will be fine. I’m just not sure if it’s going to matter that much.”

Kupchan said he was “quite worried” that the US relationship with the US might diminish in the future, telling Times Radio that France had overtaken the UK as the the port of call for the US when it comes to issues of foreign policy.

“I would say that over the last few years, the French have replaced the British as the go-to partner, when it comes to the counter-ISIL mission, when it comes to Syria, Iraq, Africa, and that may continue.

“I personally have been quite worried about this, in the sense that I see the US-UK partnership as one that has been extremely important over the last hundred years, and I just don’t know that it’s going to be as effective and as consequential as it has been moving forward.”

Over the weekend the UK press was awash with reports that Biden, who was projected to have secured enough Electoral College votes to win the presidency last week, would prioritize the US relationship with Germany and France above Britain once in the White House.