As Joe Biden prepares to swear his oath of office and become the 46th president of the United States, a majority of British and European citizens are optimistic about his upcoming tenure.
Fifty-six per cent of British respondents to a new survey by Kekst CNC said they expected Mr Biden’s administration to improve their view of America after four divisive and chaotic years of Donald Trump.
Fifty-three per cent said they believed Mr Biden would have a positive impact on global trade, 59 per cent backed him to improve stability and security and 64 per cent felt he would be more proactive in tackling climate change than his predecessor, who famously withdrew the US from the 2015 Paris accord and rolled back regulations in prioritising the economy over the environment.
The survey revealed a more pessimistic outlook on the thorny subject of Brexit, however, with just 35 per cent expecting the newcomer to have a positive impact on the situation, with Remainers slightly more upbeat than Leavers.
Mr Biden, who comes from Irish stock, is known to be concerned about the impact Britain’s withdrawal from the EU could have on the Good Friday Agreement and has warned against any steps that could threaten the peace.
Swedish, German and French respondents to the study were also resoundingly positive, particularly with regard to the Democrat’s likely influence on international security and climate, betraying a degree of relief that Mr Trump’s brinkmanship with the likes of China, Iran and North Korea is at an end.
“While the world is rocked by events in the United States and the handover from Trump to Biden, this research shows that Europe looks on with optimism at the prospect of a Biden presidency", said Kekst senior adviser James Johnson.
“By large margins in the UK, France, Germany and Sweden, people expect the world to be safer, greener, and more prosperous. This often extends across party lines, and people expect their own view of the US to improve as power shifts from Trump to Biden.”
He continued: “The Joe Biden presidency is also expected to improve global trade and economic growth around the world. But there are two warning notes. First, the British public are unsure of where the new American president stands on a post-Brexit trade deal.
“And second, across Europe, people in low-income jobs are considerably less likely to think President Biden’s tenure will improve economic growth. This is a timely reminder of how, while more prosperous circles hail a return to apparent political normality, business leaders and politicians alike will need to ensure people across the income scale feel like they are benefitting from the coming months and years.”
The concerns expressed by the British public about the state of the “special relationship” between the UK and US appears to be shared by senior diplomats, who fear Washington is more likely to look towards Paris and Berlin, rather than London, now that Britain is no longer part of the EU.
“I have my doubts about whether a UK deal will be a priority,” ex-UK ambassador to the US Sir Kim Darroch told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour on Monday.
“I think it’s actually a stretch to imagine it happening in a Biden first term, but we might strike it lucky, we’ll see.”
On the broader international picture, Dr Steven Hurst, reader in politics at Manchester Metropolitan University, told The Independent: “It is overwhelmingly likely that President Biden will have a foreign policy agenda which is heavily focused on restoring the status quo ante after four years of the Trump administration. Given that he might be looking at just one term, and given how much disruption Trump has achieved, Biden will likely see his task as putting things on an even keel rather than launching major new foreign policy initiatives.”
Dr Hurst suggested President Biden will pursue “low hanging fruit” like rejoining the Paris accord and ending his predecessor’s travel ban against majority-Muslim nations – both expected to be the subject of executive orders on the new president’s first day in office – but will face a tougher job improving relations with Iran, China and Russia and solving problems left unresolved by Mr Trump, like establishing peace in the Middle East and Afghanistan.