Joe Biden greeted by Sunak as he arrives in Northern Ireland
Joe Biden arrived in a storm in Belfast as he came to Northern Ireland to celebrate 25 years of the Good Friday Peace Deal. But the heavy wind and rain which buffeted Air Force One as it touched down on the runway were still more clement than the icy relations this US President has created with his country’s closest ally.
While the smiles and handshakes were superficially on display between a stiff-looking US President and Rishi Sunak the signs that all is not well in the so-called “Special Relationship” were barely pushed under the surface.
For starters, the decision for the Prime Minister not to attend Biden’s speech. An extraordinary move and one apparently insisted on by the US President.
Instead, the relatively junior Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris was in attendance as another guest in the audience.
But then as the President literally rambled on, constantly repeating himself it became clear why he did not want the Prime Minister there.
He could not resist taking a jab at Brexit – “I know it has made things more complicated.”
Then – peppered with the uncomfortable reminder that he was a 29-year-old Senator back in 1972 – Biden appeared to be set on framing the Good Friday Agreement as something crafted by the Americans , particularly his friend former Senator George Mitchell.
And just to rub a little salt into the wound, Biden had a pop at the Unionists for refusing to get the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive operational again.
The irony is that that Biden virtually admitted he is of Irish heritage in his fantasies and that his actual forebears were English including those from Nottingham.
But this has not stopped a man who has made his political career tying himself closely to the US Democrats’ powerful Irish lobby with its links to Sinn Fein.
The reality also is that Sunak has pushed through a far from perfect Brexit deal on Northern Ireland and set himself against many in his own party because of the pressure from Biden and the US.
But what has he fgot in return? Not a lot.
Mr Biden, followed the “back of the queue” attitude of Barack Obama, by saying the US/ UK trade deal was “not a priority.”
That means it won’t get going until 2025 at the earliest.
By then Britain could have a different Prime Minister and the US may have a different President.
Although, it seems that the trip to Northern Ireland was a precursor for Mr Biden to launch an extraordinary bid for a second term in his 80s.
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The question is whether another Biden presidency would not find another excuse to delay trade talks. It seems likely.
While Mr Biden’s hostility was often put down to his personal feelings about Boris Johnson it seems that his dislike of Britain goes beyond the personal.
He may not dislike Sunak in the way he did Johnson but he has replaced antipathy for disdain.
Those who warned that the last US Presidential election was a choice between a pro-British candidate who wanted a trade deal, Donald Trump, and an anti-British one who hated Brexit, Joe Biden, have been proven right.
It seems that the 2024 race for the White House may be a repeat run of the one in 2020 unless the charges against Trump somehow stick.
With Liz Truss speaking at Heritage in washington DC today though it is obvious that whoever runs for the Republicans will be more pro-British in outlook than the Democrat candidate.
That will mean that attitudes to the US’s closest ally could become one of the factors in a political narrative in the US which has become increasngly polarised.
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