Earlier this month, when Joe Biden was announced as the projected next president of the United States, there were celebrations in the streets of his ancestry town of Ballina, county Mayo. The newly elected president has been outspoken on his Irish roots and many in Ireland supported his campaign. Now that the dust has begun to settle and with the inauguration edging nearer, what will the Biden presidency mean for Ireland?
Described as “the most Irish president since JFK”, Biden has Irish ancestry on both his mother and father’s side. His family tree reveals he is five-eighths Irish. His mother’s side is entirely so, tracing its lineage to the Blewitts of County Mayo and the Finnegans of County Louth. A quarter on his father’s side can be traced to Ireland via his great-grandmother Mary Jane Hanafee.
Over the years Biden has visited Ireland a number of different times on both official and unofficial visits. He has always been outspoken about his Irishness and fondness of Ireland, from jokingly answering a BBC question with “BBC? I’m Irish” earlier this year to writing Ireland “will be written on my soul” in 2016. Rumours in Washington recently began to circulate that Biden’s first official state visit will be to Ireland. However, aside from his Irish roots and visits, what will the Biden presidency mean for Ireland?
(new mural of Joe Biden in Ballina, Co.Mayo)
What will the Biden presidency mean for Ireland?
Biden has always been a great supporter of the Good Friday Agreement, reaffirming this on Tuesday when he spoke to the Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Unlike Trump, Biden is not a big supporter of Brexit and places more importance on keeping the Good Friday Agreement intact.
Biden has made his position on Brexit very clear. Most recently in October, he spoke on the subject in relation to the news that Boris Johnson wanted to break international law and allow the UK government to override parts of Northern Ireland protocol, agreed between Westminster and Brussels. He said “any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.” In a tweet, the newly elected president also said “we can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.”
After his election win, Biden also had a conversation with Boris Johnson in which he repeated his support for the Good Friday Agreement and his unwillingness to support anything that would hinder it, including a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Many commentators believe pressure such as this from the US will force Johnson to rethink his position in negotiations with the EU and strike a deal, especially as the US-UK alliance is ever more important in the wake of Britain’s exit from the EU.
Biden’s views on taxation will also have an impact on Ireland. Several major tech companies such as Apple and Google have massive bases in Ireland. Ireland’s low corporate taxation on these companies (12.5%) has been key to their significant bases in the country. The ongoing dispute over how multinational tech companies are taxed puts Ireland’s low taxation model at risk. Many have suggested that Biden will be less aggressive when it comes to international corporate tax reform.
Commentators have also noted that Biden’s close relationship with Ireland post Brexit will be important to transatlantic trade and put Ireland as a key player in new international trade talks when Britain leaves the EU.
Paris Climate agreement
Biden has also shown his support for the Paris climate agreement and vowed America will rejoin the agreement when he begins his term in office. The US is seemingly taking climate change seriously again and is on the same page as the countries of the EU that are already committed to the agreement. This will no doubt be a relief to the EU.
This move by Biden will lead to less conflict between the EU and US on environment and climate policies, a stark contrast from Donald Trump who took the US out of the agreement and frequently denounced climate change as a hoax in interviews and on Twitter. As the world’s largest economy and second biggest emitter of fossil fuels this will be huge for climate change across Europe and the world. The US involvement also adds diplomatic weight to encourage other countries to do the same.
All in all, it seems Ireland now has a new ally in the White House. It appears Bidens presidency will have good implications for Ireland and their place on the international stage in a number of different ways.
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