What does a Biden Presidency mean for Europe?

20 Nov 2020 – Written by Alex Mason

The new President-elect of the US Joe Biden, has the potential to significantly impact relations with Europe and beyond, but overall this should be met with cautious optimism. The shift from a Trump to Biden Presidency has already boosted stock markets across the world – timely considering the detrimental impact of Covid-19 on the global economy. 

The news has also lifted European policy-makers’ spirits that a US administration under Joe Biden will mark an eager return to international cooperation and shared values between the EU and US – somewhat absent over the past four years under Trump.  So, what does a Biden Presidency mean for Europe?

EU Relations 

Relations between the US and EU have been in a constant state of conflict over the past four years. Trump’s election in 2016 prompted shockwaves across Europe that still overshadow contemporary relations today. 

The populist rhetoric from the President spread across the Atlantic and helped develop far-right movements across Europe, especially in France, Italy, and the Netherlands. The President’s embrace of nationalism has also fuelled a Brexit vote which continues to destabilise the European project. Only until we see the results of the UK’s trade agreement with the EU will we fully understand the impact that this will have on the overall Euroscepticism that has infected Europe.

The news of Joe Biden becoming the new President of the US has been met with a cacophony of positive noise across the European continent. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen sees promise in a “renewed global partnership”. Moreover, many political commentators and analysts have suggested that a Biden presidency will strengthen links with France and Germany, which will evidently put pressure on the UK to collaborate more closely with the EU. 

Transnational issues such as climate change have also soured relations between the EU and the United States. The Paris Climate Accord was met with hostility from the Trump administration, as were trade relations and taxation with the EU.  However, Mr Biden has already promised that re-joining the Paris Accord will be a top priority when he takes over the White House, much welcomed news from Europeans who were fearful of China’s potential remission from the Accord.

Mr Biden also is keen to ‘reset’ relations between the US and Europe on security. While Trump did his best to destabilise relations with NATO, a Biden presidency will aim to rebuild adequate cooperation between both sides. Both Brussels and Biden will be keen to rebuild security ties, an area that has been somewhat neglected in recent years. This is welcoming news for the Baltic states, who will be enthusiastic that a Biden administration is aligned to their vision of a united Europe against Russian aggression. 

Biden – Brexit

The outcome of negotiations between the UK and EU has the potential to delay a US and UK trade deal. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has worked extensively over the past year to foster an early agreement between Downing Street and Washington, which would allow for the Prime Minister to deliver on one of his main pledges: the development of international trade deals with partners outside of the EU. 

While negotiations between the UK and EU are still ongoing, a Biden presidency has the potential to change the course of these trade negotiations in a new direction, one which respects trade and the environment between the EU and UK.  The US will be watching negotiations closely between the two sides, for an array of reasons politically, economically and socially. 

The President-elect has already issued a warning to Boris Johnson not to destabilise the Northern Ireland peace process, an area where Biden stands firmly compared to his predecessor Trump. The Good Friday Agreement is an area that Mr Biden is keen to advocate, especially with his Irish heritage (his great-great-Grandfather, making Mr Biden 18.75% Irish). 

However, good relations between the US and UK are in no doubt. Despite Mr Biden previously declaring the Prime Minister “a physical and emotional clone of Donald Trump”, there is much room for optimism that a future trade deal can be struck between the US and the UK – one which respects the agreements between the UK and European Union. 

Cautious Optimism 

European leaders have suggested that Trump has been a lesson for Europe to be less reliant on the US Going forward, there needs to be cautious cooperation that makes the EU more self dependent, rather than relying on the US for trade, security and the environment. This was echoed by Emmanuel Macron and other key EU figures last week, but a cautious and optimistic future lies ahead for both sides under a Biden administration. 

Overall, there is much optimism that a Biden presidency will help “reset” relations between the US and Europe. However, Europe will approach the situation with a pinch of cautious optimism, especially considering the ongoing tensions between the two sides and the overall impact of Covid-19. Tensions are unlikely to increase again in the aftermath of “Trumpism”. Trump may be gone for now, but issues that Europe face regarding the environment, trade, populism and democracy are still here to stay. Nevertheless, European leaders will be put at ease that they can face these common challenges alongside a Biden administration.

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Recommended citation:

Mason, A. (2020) What does a Biden Presidency mean for Europe?, IDRN, 20 November. Available at: https://idrn.eu/democracy-and-civil-society/what-does-a-biden-presidency-mean-for-europe [Accessed dd/mm/yyyy].