I want to address two distinct areas, namely the political sphere and trade.
The USA has been in somewhat of a turmoil in the past few years, marked by the years of the Trump presidency which brought it to a head. It highlighted that there was an underlying white supremacy movement which went back to the Civil War Years, the mid 1800s, and only needed a maverick President, as Trump was, to bring it to the fore. This has not gone away. In fact, the FBI are more worried by the white supremacy movements for domestic terrorism than the international variety. Trump, having survived two impeachments, and with a weak, somewhat docile, Republican party, he will try to take it over and cause problems for the Democrats and Biden.
This will be one significant issue that Biden will face in his four-year term and he will have to address that. One can only hope that Trump’s time will be absorbed by defending back taxes owed and shady deals. The USA, however, will re-engage with NATO, WHO and Climate Change and other bodies which Trump withdrew the USA from.
However, Biden is going to struggle whenever he comes up against the stateswide judiciary or the Supreme Court when it comes to having important decisions passed and where Trump has placed arch conservatives. Therefore, I am not hopeful that Biden will be able to attend to as much as he would like on trans-Atlantic matters.
With Brexit done, the new American administration now have two entities to think about., UK and the EU. With Johnson as Prime Minister Trump considered he had a good rapport with the UK, and one could conceive that a top priority would have been a trade deal with the UK, although UK people had misgivings over some important contents of the deal, the outline of which was up for preliminary discussion. The trade between UK and US, although not as high as between Britain and Europe, is significant. But Biden is more ambivalent despite the closeness of the relationship; his forebears are Irish! I think that Biden would be interested in the Europe-US trade option. My caveat would be that there would be many things to discuss and several years to bring anything to a conclusion. Some key standards are different. The two deals, with EU and UK, could be run in parallel but I don ‘t see them coming to fruition in the near term.
This next puts attention on the EU-UK trade deal which was hastily signed up at the eleventh hour by Johnson, as he promised, although the deal that he signed was little different from that of 6 months previously. This then draws attention to the promises made by the Brexiteers in 2016. Little by little it is coming out that the message that they gave to the British people was full of holes. Not to put to fine a point on it they spoke a lot of terminal inexactitudes, to quote Churchill when he was pulled up for saying that someone was lying in the House of Commons. Unparliamentary language! This is gradually going to come out and there will be a lot of unhappy people. There is much to blame Cameron and other Remainers for. They assumed that there was no problem and went to sleep and let Farage vent and Brexiteers tell their untruths unchallenged. We have not seen the end of this at this juncture. The demographics are changing in Britain, most of the younger people want change, and the outer parts that make up the UK are restive, particularly in the north, Scotland. That is another story. The UK might be different at the end of the decade!
In summary, Europe and trans-Atlantic relations will be easier with the new US administration pulling in the same direction, with the US rejoining the western World, and behaving more in tune with what most of Europe espouses to be. If the trans-Atlantic link is improving diplomatically this will make it easier to push the important agendas which should exercise the minds of those in positions to do this, namely the ongoing muddle which is the Middle East and the disgrace of a humanitarian situation, an aggressive China with a dictatorial touch but still open to trade with Europe, as well as India and ASEAN and Africa.
Today, Europe is ideally placed to trade with places East. There is an attempt to open up the old Silk Road and China is not averse to promote its use. A railway link has been established between China and right across Europe. This can cut the journey time by sea by as much as 2/3rds. Further the rail connections to ASEAN are improving
The EU has a vital leadership part to play in World affairs and is ideally placed to do it. The question is will they embrace the opportunity?
*Prof. J. Scott Younger, OBE, International Chancellor of the President University , IFIMES Advisory Board
This article was part of a presentation delivered at Vienna Process event titled: “Europe – Future – Neighbourhood at 75: Disruptions Recalibration Continuity”. The conference, jointly organized by four different entities (the International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies IFIMES, Media Platform Modern Diplomacy, Scientific Journal European Perspectives, and Action Platform Culture for Peace) with the support of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, was aimed at discussing the future of Europe and its neighbourhood in the wake of its old and new challenges.