The United Kingdom does not matter much to the United States of America these days – indeed it has not for a very long time. President Biden will be polite and perhaps a bit sentimental. But at a personal level he probably cares more about Ireland than he does about the UK as befits a man from County Louth (albeit a while back!). I suspect that his views of Britain would be the same as those of Dean Acheson nearly sixty years ago:
“Britain’s attempt to play a separate power role – that is, a role apart from Europe, a role based on a ‘special relationship’ with the United States, a role based on being the head of a Commonwealth which has no political structure or unity or strength and enjoys a fragile and precarious economic relationship – this role is about played out.”
I would like to think that Biden won the Presidency because the American electorate rejected the petty nationalism of Trump – perhaps there was a bit of that. But in truth it was simpler. The demographics of the US are changing, and this was a watershed election. A very different America is emerging – one that will be characterised not by Biden’s presidency but by Kamala Harris’s which will surely follow it. Neither Biden nor his “president is waiting” alongside him will want much to do with a Britain breaking itself asunder and drifting offshore from the great economic, cultural and political entity that is Europe. As Acheson presciently put it there is no “Role apart from Europe” for Britain.
The nationalism of Trump had resonance with the nationalism of Brexiting Britain. The first foolishness will now, and quickly, disappear. Britain alone among America’s allies has nationalist great power delusions. When Joe Biden has his first summit with Angela Merkel the European Flag will be as prominent as the German one – maybe more so. That’s the twenty-first century reality for us as well, if only we could see it, not anachronistic memories of Roosevelt and Churchill’s special relationship which was short, pragmatic and successful. Those days are long since gone.
America’s future looks bright now it is no longer polluted with Orange. The move from Vulgarity to Decency and from Disarray to Competence starts today. It would be excellent if these moves could be matched in Britain. But sadly, they won’t be for a very long time. As America returns to global respectability Britain lurches towards irrelevance Losing an Empire may be regarded as a misfortune; also losing Europe looks like carelessness.