Boris Johnson’s government is “frantically repositioning” itself to prepare for the likely arrival of Democrat Joe Biden in the White House following next week’s US presidential elections, former chancellor George Osborne has claimed.
Mr Osborne told CNN that Downing Street would have to “work hard” to overcome the lack of warmth from Mr Biden towards the Johnson administration after the Brexiteers associated themselves with his rival Donald Trump.
The Brexiteers’ goal of getting a trade deal with the US could be difficult under a Biden presidency, Mr Osborne suggested.
“There’s no doubt that the Brexit government here will face a challenge with a Biden administration,” said the former chancellor.
“Of course the US/UK alliance is long-enduring and exists on many levels, and there’s no doubt that the British prime minister will always be welcome in Washington.
“But Joe Biden, who I dealt with when I was in office, knows the Brexiteers associated themselves with Trump, he knows they’re not his fellow travellers, and they will find it hard to pivot towards a Biden administration.
“There’ll be some very specific things like whether the UK does a trade deal with the US, where Joe Biden has already indicated and people like Nancy Pelosi have indicated that is going to be hard work for the British government.
“So there’s a lot of frantic repositioning going on at the moment here in London by this administration in Britain, but I don’t think Joe Biden will feel particularly warm towards this British government and they’re going to have to work very hard to change that.”
Mr Osborne said that the Johnson administration was one of a number of populist governments, also including those of the US and Brazil, who had forged links and drawn inspiration with one another.
“Donald Trump himself said ‘I’m Mr Brexit’ when he was just the candidate. And I think, by contrast, Joe Biden is Mr Mainstream,” said the former chancellor.
“I think this could be a very big moment, not just for what happens on the economy or foreign relations or indeed even climate, but also a big global sense that we are turning back to the mainstream, that divisive politics is not popular anymore, that rejection of science and expertise is not what people want anymore.
“Ultimately, populists are only populists while they stay popular. If you cannot address the concerns – some of which were legitimate – about neglected communities or middle-income people who haven’t seen their earnings rise, if you actually end up making their situations worse off, then you’re no longer a populist because you’re no longer popular. And yo’’re probably out of office.”
Mr Osborne said he thinks America and countries like Britain are yearning for a return to a “more civil politics”.
“And there’s a huge opportunity for a Biden presidency, if he’s elected, to be the healer, to be the unifier rather than just to be the anti-Trump or the person who now divides the country from the left,” he said.
“If his party lets him become the unifier-in-chief, then I think he will lead the world – certainly the democratic world, the western world – towards a more civilised, less divisive politics and that’s got to be good for our countries and has got to be good for the west and it’s got to be good for democracy.”