The US-UK relationship has been through peaks and valleys since the 1940s. The UK essentially sees its relationship with the US as one of the keystones of British foreign policy, and the US has long had the UK at its back in the debates of US’s foreign policy agendas. Many observers perceive that there is a win-win relationship between these powerful nations: the UK’s special relationship with the United States has polished up its global influence, and that British support has often boosted the credibility and gravity of US’s initiatives and policies.
With all that said, what will the US-UK relationship be like following Brexit? Former president Donald Trump of the US repeatedly voiced out his support for Brexit and the possibility of a purposely-tailored US-UK trade deal. But, President Joe Biden and other high-level officials have remained skeptical of the unprecedented movement, and former president Obama has expressed a similar concern.
The UK’s relationship with the EU
“Ambivalence” is one of the words that helps to characterize the relationship between the UK and EU, ever since the beginning of the EU project. In the 1950s, the United Kingdom took a step back when the other countries set out to initiate European integration. The UK joined the union in 1973, aiming to tap into the economic benefits of the membership.
As the integration began to take shape, many UK citizens and leaders held a skeptical view of the EU. The UK managed not to be bound by several elements of the integration, including the Schengen passport-free zone, and the euro currency. EU doubters often speak up about their frustration over the EU’s agendas, asserting that the union devotes too much time to internal treaties rather than focusing on other priorities, such as enhancing its competitiveness in the global economy and it’s defense system, and facilitating a one-country energy policy.
The Brexit referendum was held on the 23rd of June 2016, and the majority of those who went to vote chose to opt out of the EU. The UK eventually informed the EU in March 2017 of its intention to leave the union, and both the EU and UK got down to negotiations. Brexit was supposed to take place on the 29th of March 2019, however it was delayed to the 31st of December 2020 due to various challenges, including the future of the long-stretching border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The UK-US relationship under the Biden administration after Brexit
Boris Johnson is probably already missing Trump and his administration’s support for Brexit and a UK-US trade deal. Despite the close relationship between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, there were conflicting interests between the policies of the U.S and that of the UK. Former president Donald Trump also made various statements that drew controversy and backlash from the UK government.
The UK government stood up against the US decision to withdraw from both Iran’s Nuclear deal and the Paris Agreement. Several UK officials expressed their concerns on the policy making techniques of the US and the country’s “lack of consultation” attitude when it comes to executing military operations, such as the 2020 US strike that took out Iranian General Qasem and the withdrawal of US troops in Syria prior to Turkey’s military operation in October 2019.
During the Trump administration, the UK’s approach towards the chinese tech giant Huawei attracted negative reactions from the US side. In 2020, the UK government stated that they would permit Huawei to build parts of the 5G network in the country, although there had been calls by the US to boycott the chinese company due to numerous security risks. However, following numerous sanctions against Huawei by the US, the UK government finally announced that all telecommunication providers in the UK shall not procure any equipment from Huawei after the year 2020.
When Joe Biden took over the office, several supporters of the “special” US-UK ties expressed concerns on the future of the close partnership. Several observers have suggested that the Biden government may place a similar degree of emphasis on resuming and improving his country’s relationship with the UK. However, the US-UK trade deal following Brexit as affirmed by Donald Trump may not be high on the US’s list of priorities.
Both Joe Biden and Boris Johnson have shown an intention to lay the foundation for a close relationship, and political analysts have concluded that these two leaders are likely to leave aside any personal dissimilarity and establish a common working ground for collaboration. The Biden government’s strong emphasis on multilateralism, alliances, and reducing climate change actually makes the agenda of the US closer to being on the same page as that of the UK. Joe Biden has reversed the decision by Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris Accord.
The post-Brexit economic relations between US and UK
The UK-US investment relationship is recorded to be the largest one globally. US foreign direct investment (FDI) in the UK amounted to $851.4 billion in 2019, and UK FDI in the US was around $505 billion. The UK is also considered to be a major US trading partner. In just 2020 alone, US goods and services exports to the UK were valued at $118 billion, with US goods and services imports from the UK worth around $100.3 billion.
The UK and US already carried out five periods of negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement in 2020, and there have been several unresolved issues, including food safety regulations, pharmaceutical products, digital services and investment. However, the Biden government has yet to release a timeline for resuming the negotiation process.
Overall, the impact of Brexit on UK in relation to the country’s ties with the US seems rather positive, although there were reports of conflicting interests between the current leaders. Given that both countries have long relied on one another and the current, better aligned foreign policies of these two powerful nations, the UK is likely to continue considering the US as a strong partner. Brexit is not causing, and will most likely not cause, any significant impact on the long established US-UK relationship. However, the Biden administration may be slow in negotiating a FTA with the UK.