Presidential transition periods in the United States are rarely a relaxing time for British prime ministers. The leader of the country that prides itself on its special relationship with the United States is prone to fret about just how special things will be with the new White House occupant. But even by these high standards, the transition from Donald Trump to Joe Biden has been uniquely fraught from a British point of view. U.K. ministers will be pleased to see Trump depart, but they are far from certain about what comes next.
Adding to the stress levels in London are Brexit—a close economic and political relationship with the United States is central to the role the U.K. sees for itself outside of the EU—and the many disobliging comments about Boris Johnson that have emerged from Joe Biden’s circle in recent years.
In private remarks in 2019, Biden is reported to have called Johnson the “physical and emotional clone” of Donald Trump. Secretary of State Antony nominee Blinken has called Brexit “a total mess.” If Britain came up on the campaign trail in 2020, it was generally because Biden was scolding the Johnson government for contemplating a Brexit option that might have jeopardized the Good Friday Agreement.
Tommy Vietor, a former Obama White House official and co-host of the Pod Save the World podcast said publicly what a lot of Democrats think privately when he wrote of Johnson’s congratulatory message to Biden, “This shapeshifting creep weighs in. We will never forget your racist comments about Obama and slavish devotion to Trump but neat Instagram graphic.” (The comments referenced by Vietor were made by Johnson in 2016, when he accused the “part-Kenyan president” of having an “ancestral dislike of the British empire.”)