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Biden has an ambitious agenda for his first European tour – it’s a pity the UK isn't listening

Irish Independent


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US President Joe Biden at the G7 summit. Photo: Reuters

US President Joe Biden at the G7 summit. Photo: Reuters

US President Joe Biden at the G7 summit. Photo: Reuters

Irish people of a certain age will remember that many among the first big influx of American tourists to this country in the 1960s came clutching a book entitled Europe on 10 Dollars a Day. That wise travel bible became the prototype for generations of guidebooks for the cost-conscious holidaymaker.

The travel guide comes to mind this week as over four months after taking office, US President Joe Biden is busy “doing Europe” as those thrifty American travellers used to say. This weekend it was three days of intense talks with leaders of the world’s key economic powers from the G7 in Cornwall; today Mr Biden is in Brussels for a summit of the western world’s military alliance, Nato; and tomorrow he is also in that Belgian city for a meeting with EU leaders; while on Wednesday he is in Geneva for a first meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The US president’s travel budget is undoubtedly vastly more than that allocated to those long-ago US tourists. But the packed agenda is reminiscent of the ambitious sight-seeing tours many of them undertook.

Mr Biden set the tone for his first foray abroad and across Europe on Thursday in Cornwall by telling US military personnel there that “America is back.” From that moment the US president set himself out there as the polar opposite of his predecessor, Donald Trump.

That of itself is very welcome. The US president has continued to project from the day of his election as somebody who is ready to engage with the wider world in a serious and constructive fashion. Happily the clownish nightmare of the Trump years is receding in the rear-view mirror.

But European leaders are also quickly learning that Mr Biden is an able and tough dealer who is rightly pursuing the USA’s key interests first and foremost. While he is expected to do deals, and abide by his word, it is also crystal clear that no deal with Biden’s America will be easily come by.

Yet, while Mr Biden’s packed travel agenda did not include a much sought after visit to Ireland, he also did this State some considerable service by sending in advance a clear rebuke to his summit host Boris Johnson over Brexit and Northern Ireland’s special trade status. In this matter he was clearly trying to end conflict with the USA’s two key allies, the UK and the EU. He was also standing over America’s heavy economic and political investment in lasting peace in the North.

The disappointing part is that the G7 summit ended with all signs from the London government that it was not heeding the US president’s advice. There is now a clear danger that the conflict with the EU may worsen, much to the detriment of
Ireland north and south.

The great pity here is that the issues about product checks on goods coming into the North from Britain could be so easily resolved with a bit of mutual goodwill. But all that is for another day.

For now, all Irish people wish President Biden and his interlocutors success in their talks, advancing peace and prosperity in a globalised society.

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