Washington, D.C. – Relations between the U.S. and the European Union (EU) will undoubtedly change under the Biden administration. The Trump administration supported the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. However, Trump does not appreciate the idea of a European single market. Biden, on the other hand, is a pro-EU politician who has promised to rejoin agreements with Europe next year. But how has the political landscape changed in Europe in the past few years? Will Biden measure up and openly support the EU?
Why does Brexit still matter if the UK is out of the picture?
Contrary to popular belief, the UK has not agreed upon the finer details of its future relationship with the EU. Technically, the UK left the EU on January 31, but that wasn’t the end of the story. In the eleven months following, both parties have worked tirelessly to achieve political capital in many policy areas.
It’s proven difficult for both parties to iron out the fine details. In a recent virtual seminar, prominent EU politicians spoke on the intricacies of such details.
The former Taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland John Bruton discussed the disputes on fisheries. Bruton noted the UK and France struggle to agree upon terms regarding the supply chain elements of fisheries in both countries. Between the two countries lies the English Channel, a crucial body of water for shipping materials.
The fishing industry is relatively small in the UK, but it’s an issue in Brexit negotiations for a more abstract reason. In the seminar, First Vice President of the European Central Bank, Christian Noyer, agreed with Bruton’s view. For both Bruton and Noyer, the real issue lies in the United Kingdom’s desire for absolute sovereignty. Essentially, the UK wants to be a completely autonomous nation, as demonstrated in the Brexit vote.
With little possibility for an extension in sight, the final deadline to smooth things over is December 31. As France’s point man on Brexit, it’s Noyer’s job to make Paris an attractive place for EU financial business. Bruton, the first EU ambassador to the U.S. from 2004-09, is primarily concerned with the business ramifications of Brexit. How does the U.S. play into this? Both the EU and U.K. want strategic partnerships with the U.S. — how will this happen with a pro-EU president?
The U.S. and EU — how will the Biden-Harris administration move forward?
Biden is openly committed to fostering a strong relationship with the EU. Repeatedly, the president-elect emphasized his desire to re-enter the Paris Accord and rejoin the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Despite his affinity for Europe, Biden will have his work cut out for him.
According to Bruton and Noyer, a free trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU will take time to develop. Bruton believes a free trade agreement will be “politically-charged” because Congress is currently “reluctant to make far-reaching trade agreements.” Additionally, Bruton hypothesized that Democrats will not be adventurous enough to pursue such a trade agreement. Instead, Bruton believes Democrats will focus on reestablishing positive relations with the World Trade Organization (WTO).
To make matters even more puzzling, the Trump administration pulled out of the Treaty on Open Skies earlier this week. Crafted in 2002, this treaty enabled other countries’ surveillance aircraft to conduct flyovers.
Despite this departure, the Trump administration last week announced a civil air transport agreement between the U.K. and the U.S. A press release from the Department of State says the agreement holds “all of the essential elements of Open Skies.” These elements include open code-sharing opportunities and market-determined pricing. The agreement also specifies a liberal charter regime, open routes, and unrestricted frequency/capacity. This agreement applies to the U.K.’s overseas territories and crown dependencies.
Biden’s administration definitely has its work cut out. The U.K. is closing ranks around its sovereignty, and the EU is building up political capital. How will Biden’s administration manage relations with both?
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