Biden and Democrats’ Brexit intrusions are conduct unbecoming the US
President Biden’s leadership is causing even some of his party’s faithful to wonder whether he should be the Democrats’ candidate in 2024. Even if he presided with competence, there would be places where Biden should not venture. One such place is interfering with the foreign and domestic policies of the United Kingdom.
Amid a global economic crisis and conflict with Russia, the Biden administration has not wavered in siding against its most stalwart ally. Recently, Biden officials “at different levels of government” have warned the UK not to pursue any action to modify the Northern Ireland Protocol — the trading arrangements put in place after the UK voted for Brexit in 2016 — heedless of the fact that Britain, a sovereign country, must be allowed to pursue policy that is in its best interests. This is not how friends treat cherished friends, and it has this week earned sharp criticism of two former U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations, Nikki Haley and John Bolton.
Northern Ireland is a full-fledged province of the United Kingdom, whose government must act to maintain its proper cohesion. The Biden administration’s latest error of judgment is its challenge to the British government’s duty and resolve in this regard, siding instead with European Union (EU) bad faith and intransigence.
Biden, along with some of his fellow Democrats in Congress, apparently is blind to the reality of the breakdown in power-sharing in Stormont that is created by EU extremism over implementation of the Protocol that is the real threat to peace and stability.
There is no excuse for being blind to reality. In September, no less than the architect of the Good Friday Agreement, David Trimble, wrote Biden a measured appeal, cogently asking that the president abandon his support for the EU’s position over the trade terms, arguing that meddling by Biden and his congressional cohorts risks causing civil unrest, damage to the Northern Ireland economy, and political uncertainty. That this most-informed advice from someone who best understands the situation in Northern Ireland has gone unheeded is hardly shocking, considering the Biden administration’s neglect to coordinate with the UK — our key military partner and closest ally — during last August’s chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Were the Biden administration well-intended, it would demonstrate even-handedness. To put this into context, the American public would rightfully be incensed were a British leader to meddle in our sovereign affairs — say, supporting Texas or California seceding from the Union, or taking the side of Canada or Mexico in the event of a USMCA disagreement.
In fact, Prime Minister Boris Johnson did voice an opinion — and a critical one, at that — about Friday’s Supreme Court decision regarding abortion. But, unlike the Biden administration, Johnson, when disagreeing, hasn’t resorted to threatening consequences or conditions.
Democrats’ intolerable “our way or the highway” approach in prescribing what Britain’s course should be leaves the Biden administration content to undermine and show contempt for our ally, even as the UK demonstrates so clearly its Brexit release to be “Global Britain,” with its leadership regarding Ukraine and its defense engagement with Sweden and Finland — in stark contrast to the EU wallowing on these and other subjects.
Biden’s approach would be bad enough in isolation toward a country of scant importance to the U.S. But Britain is not that, and what he does is not in the U.S. interest. He sides against the UK with an Irish nationalism that purports neutrality but shelters under UK and NATO protection. It appears the EU’s not-so-hidden aim is a united Ireland, the North separated from the UK as punishment for Brexit.
Perhaps Biden, undeclared, shares that aim. That would make starkly dishonest, Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s justification of the administration’s suggestion to put on the ground an uninvited and unwanted American envoy to act as referee, “in line with our historical role as a good-faith arbiter.” Regardless of motives, the meddling has met with an appropriate response from UK Brexit negotiator David Frost: “It is our country that faced the Troubles. We don’t need lectures from others about the peace process.”
One has to marvel at the judgment of an American administration to intrude shamefully on our closest ally’s sovereignty when we have paralyzing problems at home, such as unbearable inflation caused by runaway spending.
Moreover, at a time of peril that threatens all the people of Ireland — that is, Russia’s suggested nuclear detonation to swamp the UK — rather than lecturing the UK about how it reacts to EU bullying, Biden instead should consider urging Ireland to join NATO.
Lee Cohen, a senior fellow of the Bow Group and the Bruges Group, was adviser on Great Britain to the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and founded the Congressional United Kingdom Caucus. Follow him on Twitter @LeeLeesco3.