November 2020

Written by:

Leslie Wertheimer

Leslie Wertheimer

Account Director

Climate change and foreign policy are the way to reboot Britain’s “Special Relationship” with the US – not trade.

A UK/US trade deal has long been viewed as the key to strengthening the “Special Relationship” between the UK and the US, as well as a way to reassert the UK’s standing in a post-Brexit world. But it’s no secret that president-elect Biden disapproves of Brexit and views it as weakening the UK’s position on the world stage. 

The key to strengthening the Special Relationship and becoming a close partner of the Biden administration doesn’t lie with trade. Instead, a focus on climate change and foreign policy will be key to reinvigorating the UK’s relationship with the US and asserting its strength globally.

On the eve of his victory speech, Biden released plans to issue a series of executive orders immediately upon taking office. One of these actions will be re-joining the Paris climate accord while others will be reversing Trump’s rollback of several environmental rules put in place by the Obama administration. This swift, decisive action signals that climate change will be a major focus of the new Biden administration. 

Biden campaigned on a progressive climate platform and, like Boris Johnson, views it as a way to build back better, create jobs and strengthen the economy. The UK has been ahead of the US on climate and is closely aligned with the Biden administration on this issue. Britain should leverage these commonalities and its hosting of next year’s COP26 – as well as its own innovations and ambitions on climate – to build inroads with the US and lead on this issue.

Along with climate, Biden campaigned on strengthening democracy at home and abroad. He will utilize his extensive foreign policy record and deep-rooted democratic values to renew America’s alliances and restore its position as a respected world leader. In doing so, he will aim to strengthen the coalition of the world’s democracies and bodies such as NATO.

Given his role as foreign secretary and Churchillian aspirations, Boris Johnson is in theory well suited to work alongside Biden in bringing the world’s democracies together to work as a united front. The UK should use next year’s turn in the rotating presidency of the G7 as a means to work closely with the US and play to Biden’s foreign policy agenda. Britain’s D-10 concept, of which Johnson would chair, is also likely attractive to Biden given his desire to bring the world’s democracies together and act as a more united front. This kind of multilateralism will be the only way for the UK and the US to contain countries such as China, Russia and North Korea, and reassert democracy in the face of rising authoritarianism in Europe.

Beyond climate and foreign policy, Biden is sure to have an extensive list of priorities ahead of him. Join us on 10 November at 4 p.m. to hear US strategists from both parties discuss what the first 100 days of the Biden administration could look like and what’s next for politics in the US, and dissect the election results.