It became apparent this week, on the sidelines of the United nations General Assembly in New York, that a trade deal with the UK just isn’t a priority for Biden. While negotiations between the two countries formally began in May 2020, and despite there being five rounds of talks while Trump was still in situ, since Biden took the reins talks have essentially stalled.
Johnson held an in-person meeting with Biden on Tuesday in the White House, in the hopes of reigniting the discussions, but Biden was careful in his comments to Press, stating that they were going to talk about Trade but being wishy-washy on substance. The UK is now understood to be considering alternative options, including seeking to join the US-Canada-Mexico trade deal instead of striking a bilateral agreement with DC.
This setback is in stark contrast to Johnson’s comments four year ago while he was Foreign Secretary and stated that the UK would be first in line for a trade agreement with the US. Now it looks increasingly likely there will be no deal this side of the 2024 general election.
Johnson downplayed the setback, stating the Biden has other issues to focus on but it is indeed a blow for the UK as it strives to position itself post-Brexit. Biden has made it clear from the beginning that his loyalties lie with Dublin and Brussels when it comes to the Northern Ireland protocol. With those discussions starting again, a wrong move by Johnson could spell the death knell for any future agreement.
And a wrong move we saw, when on Wednesday Johnson’s Environment Secretary George Eustice stated that the UK will continue to insist on a revision of the protocol, even going so far as to suggest that Biden lacked depth of understanding on the issue, a sure-fire way to ruffle a few feathers in DC.