Biden vs Brexit

We must defend British democracy against the American Empire.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
Editor

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Joe Biden isn’t even in the White House and he’s already throwing his imperial weight around. He and his transition team have their eye on a disobedient little country, a rebellious, uppity nation that must be firmly put back in its place. Only it isn’t a failing state in the Middle East or a conflict-ridden country in the Horn of Africa – the usual tragic targets of the American Empire – that Biden and Co want to reprimand. No, it’s us; it’s Britain.

Biden is on the warpath with Brexit Britain. Not literal war, of course (well, not yet). He has long made plain his opposition to Brexit and his view that we the dimwitted masses of Blighty only voted for it because we are so ‘susceptible to demagogues and charlatans’. And now, as he makes moves to take over the White House, he plans to do something about it. He plans to use America’s economic and political clout to weaken Brexit and strengthen the European Union.

He doesn’t mince his words, our new imperial overlord. He said a few months ago that a trade deal between the UK and the US is ‘contingent’ upon there being ‘no hard border in Ireland. Period.’ Period. Full stop. No discussion, no debate. Of course, ‘no hard border in Ireland’ is code for ‘Britain sticking to the Withdrawal Agreement’, which stipulates that Northern Ireland will remain beholden to certain EU customs and trade rules even after the transition period has ended. To put this more plainly, Biden is saying that Britain must agree to the virtual annexation of part of its territory by a foreign power – the EU – or else it will be punished by America and deprived of a good trade deal.

This was a clear threat to use America’s economic clout to determine the internal affairs of another country – our country. Anyone who thought Biden wasn’t serious when he said he would block or hold up a trade deal if Britain refused to give the EU what it wants will have had a rude awakening these past few days. Already Biden and his transition team are planning a political assault on Brexit Britain. According to Nicholas Watt of Newsnight, the Biden-Harris transition team plans to send ‘very strong words to No10’ about the Internal Market Bill, instructing it to ‘remove the [Northern Ireland] clauses’.

Let’s assess the seriousness of this. The Internal Market Bill, of course, is the bill introduced by Boris Johnson’s government to temper the more destructive aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement that Britain signed with the EU, especially as it pertains to Northern Ireland. Specifically, the bill grants the UK government the right, at least, to breach the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement in order to ensure unfettered trade in the UK’s internal market. It has caused a meltdown among the Remainer elites, who prefer the primacy of international law (in this case the Withdrawal Agreement) over democratic national law. And now it looks like the next US administration will side with Britain’s own anti-democrats and exert pressure on the UK government to ditch parts of the Internal Market Bill – that is, to rewrite legislation to make it more pleasing to people in Washington none of us ever voted for.

This is a threat of brazen, undemocratic interference in Britain’s affairs. And those of us, like spiked, who have long opposed American interference in sovereign nations – whether it is militaristic meddling, economic pressure or political demonisation – must take a stand against it. Downing Street has got to stand up to the Biden-Harris transition team, and the eventual Biden-Harris administration, and make it clear that Britain will not be blackmailed by foreign powers. After all, the British people in 2016 voted to ‘take back control’. We did not wrest our sovereignty back from the EU only to see it ceded to a post-Trump White House.

What is most striking is the language Biden has used when talking about Brexit. He clearly hates Brexit, viewing it as a dangerous mistake by the British masses. In the days after we voted Leave in June 2016, Biden, who was then vice president in the Obama administration, said Brexit could unleash ‘xenophobia, nationalism and isolationism’. In 2018, he said that while he was disappointed by the vote for Brexit, he wasn’t surprised, because ‘in times of confusion and great change’, people become ‘susceptible to demagogues and charlatans who, in order to aggrandise their power, find a scapegoat’. This is how the next president of the United States views the voters of Britain – as people who were hoodwinked by charlatans into voting for something dangerous: Brexit. That does not bode well for the relationship between our two democratic nations.

Biden’s disdain for Brexit is motored by his broader disdain for populism. He sees Brexit as the kid brother to Trumpism (or perhaps as the older brother, given the vote for Leave predated the vote for Trump). It is clear that Biden and Harris see it as their responsibility to restore the technocratic authority of globalist institutions that were rattled by populism these past few years. So they will rejoin the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organisation, and they will seek to boost the standing of the EU following the tumult of recent years (even as they simultaneously try to keep the EU in check). Populists in Europe, whether it’s the voters of Britain or the EU’s punchbag states of Hungary and Poland, can expect difficult times under the rule of a president who clearly wants to reverse the populist spirit and reinstate the apparently rightful rule of experts, bureaucrats and globalists.

And of course he has emboldened Remoaners in the UK. They are delighted that America will be ruled by a man who opposes Brexit. We might even see the Remainer elites having another stab at blocking or weakening Brexit. Indeed, Brexitphobic peers in the House of Lords seem newly confident as a result of Biden’s victory as they discuss the Internal Market Bill this week. So even before Biden has the actual power to push Britain around, he is already giving a green-light to forces within Britain itself who have long wanted to stymie the people’s cry to ‘take back control’. Having failed to block Brexit via their legal cases, their parliamentary intrigue and their mass gatherings of middle-class anti-democrats, perhaps Remainers will be able to marshal the American Empire to their cause of silencing the democratic wishes of their fellow citizens?

Britain needs to be alert in the Biden era. We stood up to the EU’s efforts to trash Brexit, and now we might have to do likewise with the US. Hands off the UK!

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Brendan will be speaking on WEB Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk at the boi charity’s online event The Academy Online II: Race and Racism. Find out more and register your spot here.

Picture by: Getty.

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