Dr Holger Hestermeyer’s optimistic assessment of the Brexit situation now that Joe Biden has won the US Election and why he believes the UK Government’s biggest problem is to put Peace in Ireland at risk with the Internal Market Bill.

First published in November 2020.

Holger Hestermeyer
Professor of Law at King’s College London Law School.

What does a Biden administration mean for Brexit Britain? Allow me to join those who give an optimistic assessment. I fear those giving a negative assessment have bought into a false Trump narrative.

The worry at the core of their argument though is not unfounded. Trump repeatedly expressed sympathy for Brexit. Talked about great things to come. Biden does not share this belief system and some reports indicate he associates Johnson with Trumpism. BUT

Look at the reality of Trump's trade policy. He did not hide it. Not for a second. America first. And he saw trade as transactional. Which means that peculiarly the very fact that Britain might gain from a trade agreement for him would have been an argument against it.

Would an FTA have been possible? Yes. But not the glory of Trump's words. The golden Facade of Trump's apartments are, after all, not real gold. And if there is gold, it's bought on credit...

Curiously, the argument for Biden is sort of the opposite. Biden might not believe in Brexit. But he is keen to rebuild alliances and preserve the West.

Now you might say: won't he speak to Brussels and Paris? Yes. He will. But the weird "special relationship" narrative in which relations with the US are only good if the UK is the very first and only contact point has been humbug all along. And continues to be so.

The US has always had a whole number of special relationships. They're just called differently. France is the oldest ally (against England). The largest self-reported ancestry group? German-Americans. And we all know about the Irish-Americans by now.

But the thing is: the US alliance system is not a race in which only one can win. If the US wants a chance at remaining the world's lone superpower for longer, it cannot be. It's a network of allies based on values and interests (before Trump).

The UK has been, is, and remains an important part of that alliance. Brexit might be viewed negatively, but that does not change the place of the UK in that alliance. And unlike Trump who views alliances transactionally, Biden views them strategically.

I am a bit astonished at the insecurity of so much commentary that is at pains to emphasize how important the UK is, but then believe that without Trump the UK is lost. The UK is, indeed, an important player. But that does not hinge on Trump.

Now on to the GFA. Biden wants that respected. But guess what? That is in the UK's interest. The GFA is there for a reason. And that reason is to ensure peace in a part of the UK. Since when is wanting peace in a part of the UK a strategic disadvantage for the country?

And despite all of Trump's rhetoric - he too wanted the GFA protected. Why? Because domestic politics beats international one. I'm not guessing here. His people said that.

Indeed - h/t to the great @sylviademars : if this government puts the GFA at risk, breaks its commitments etc. the Biden administration will not be friendly. But I am convinced that the Biden administration will be the smaller problem. The larger one? Putting the GFA at risk.


Check their Voting Record:

🗳️ Donald Trump

🗳️ Joe Biden

🗳️ Boris Johnson

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 8 November 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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