Boris Johnson's dismissal of the new President-elect's concerns suggests that although the US may be moving on from Trumpism, the UK is notby Christiana Spens / November 11, 2020 / Leave a comment
“Mr Biden, a quick word for the BBC?” a reporter asked the President-elect, in a much-shared clip. “The BBC?” He replies, with mock outrage, then a sparkling smile. “I’m Irish!” He laughs and sharply turns into another room.
It is well-known that Joe Biden, who has family ties to counties Derry, Mayo and Louth, is proud of his Irish heritage. And Ireland, it must be said, seems proud of him too. When news of Biden’s victory was finally announced, RTÉ News played a recording of Biden reading Seamus Heaney over a montage of black and white photographs of the President-elect.
In many ways, the new President-elect’s personal connection, and the historical solidarity between the Irish and Americans, is a nightmare for Boris Johnson, who has already created a bad impression on the newly elected Biden (and to the Irish, of course). Johnson’s 2016 remarks about Barack Obama’s “part-Kenyan heritage” as the cause of “an ancestral dislike of the British Empire” caused outrage at the time amongst Biden and the rest of the Obama administration. And they have not been forgotten: Biden ally Chris Coons recently suggested that Johnson “reconsider” his remarks.
In this light, Biden’s almost mocking advertisement of his Irish heritage when playfully snubbing the BBC is an interesting affront. While Johnson is known to be proud of the British Empire, such a view of the past is clearly not shared with Biden. With regard to Ireland in particular, Biden has shown support for a bipartisan effort from the US calling on the UK to honour the Good Friday Agreement while negotiating Brexit. Signatories included Peter King, a congressman who has have spoken in favour of the Provisional IRA during the Troubles. As a consequence, pundits like Nigel Farage have called Biden “anti-British.” It is unfortunate that this polarising approach to Northern Ireland, which equates wanting to keep the peace with anti-Britishness, persists.
As such, Johnson’s approach to Brexit discussions, and in particular his intention to rewrite parts of the Good Friday Agreement, was met with horror and indignation. During his campaign trail, Biden warned that “any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the agreement and…