The writing was on the wall for Dominic Cummings – remember him (?) – when Lindsay Hilsom called out to Joe Biden after Trump’s “Red Mirage” had faded enough for it to be clear that he would be the next President of the United States – “Mr Biden, do you have a comment for the BBC?” and Biden replied, “BBC huh? I’m Irish”.
Johnson had a pre-arranged call set up with Ursula Von Der Leyen from the European Commission timed for the Saturday after the Presidential election – enough time for the dust to settle and to be sure which way the wind would be blowing.
Had it been Trump, and the former administration’s policy to undermine the EU with Alt Right nationalist currents – the better to subject it in general and Germany in particular to its economic requirements – it would have been full speed ahead for No Deal; and Cummings would still be in place. As it is Biden, with a position of getting the EU on board with the US Cold War on China, and the wind towards London now blowing very cold indeed, Johnson is in the now familiar position of having to make a screeching U-turn and try for any last minute basic deal with the EU that might still be on offer; and Cummings had to be out the door with his box.
Johnson is definitely not flavour of the month with the incoming team in Washington. One Biden insider described him as “that shape shifting creep”; leading to some of the quick policy moves we have seen in the last week. The sudden increase in military spending is an attempt to show willing to beef up the UK’s traditional role of Robin to the USA’s global Batman – nothwithstanding the perception that most of the rest of the world has that Batman acts like The Joker most of the time.
The need for a deal – as being adrift in the North Atlantic with both the EU and the US offering a cold shoulder is not a good place to be – does not mean that one will be pulled out of the bag. The negotiations are still being led by Lord Frost – an incarnation of Rosbif at its most truculent – who seems to think that mulish intransigence is a winning strategy; so they might mess up even this. However, a deal is now much more likely. The details remain to be seen, but it won’t be a good one.
It will cost us, as these estimates from a study from the LSE indicate. (1)
The inclination of the Labour leadership to either vote for it or abstain is problematic. This will be a bad deal. If you vote for a deal you own it. You become complicit. Unless there is a deal that includes the UK in the customs union – thereby resolving the crisis with Ireland and blocking off the deregulation and Americanisation of the UK economy that is the purpose of Brexit from the point of view of the ruling class fraction that has driven it – Labour should vote against.
What is very clear is that Keir Starmer has been relaxed about a bad deal in a way that would have had his supporters apoplectic on social media had it been Jeremy Corbyn taking the same stance. There was an eery silence from former keyboard warriors in “Labour Against Brexit” when Starmer let the possibility of an extension to the transition period go by without a whimper. The football chant “Its all gone quite over there” comes to mind. Without presuming that Starmer is a “closet leaver” – though he was always more prepared to embrace opposition to Free Movement than Corbyn ever was – this indicates that the Labour right is far more Atlanticist than it ever was Europhile.
They are more comfortable with a Biden Presidency than they were with Trump – as Trump is the USA with the mask off – but they would still have always lined up to “stand with America on the world stage”; and all other policy – including disciplinary policy – flows from that.