Brexit is an “intractable” problem which threatens to undermine America’s role as a major player in Europe’s security, former US vice president Joe Biden has said.
Biden, who served as deputy to Barack Obama during his two terms in the White House, told an event in London that the special relationship between the UK and US thrived with Britain “totally integrated” in Europe.
He made an impassioned case for unity between the US and Europe, defending shared values as the spectre of authoritarianism is cast over the international stage by Russia and China.
Biden is reportedly mulling a presidential run against Donald Trump in 2020, having previously vied to be the Democrats’ nominee in 1988 and 2008.
His tour of the UK has included a meeting with Theresa May yesterday, he revealed during a talk at Chatham House today.
Asked about the issue of Brexit, Biden said he would have voted against it if he were a British MP, saying: “US interests are diminished with Great Britain not an integral part of Europe and bringing to bear influence well beyond the economy, on the European attitudes towards a whole range of subjects.
“It seems to me that there is a growing awareness in Europe as a whole and around the world that Britain played a role in Europe over the last 30 years that went well beyond the notion of open borders, trade and all these other things – being able to influence attitudes about things that have nothing to do with the elements of the EU state.”
On the ties between the US and UK, he said: “There is a special relationship, we have been locked cheek and jowl on almost every important issue that exists, and so without England [sic] being totally integrated in the EU to the extent that it is distanced from that diminishes our ability to have influence on events on the continent.
“I had the great honour of spending some time with your prime minister last night and I think it’s an almost intractable problem no matter which political party. I observe the Labour Party is not unified on these things – it really is difficult.
“I do believe very strongly that the United States’ ability to play a major role in the security of the west and the prosperity of the transatlantic partnership rests in part on Great Britain’s influence in Europe.”
Biden also said the UK and US should avoid “looking inward” and instead lead the west in the battle to protect democratic values.
He named China and Russia as powers seeking to sow discord internationally and assert the dominance of authoritarian systems, saying western allies faced a “contest for the future”.
The former Delaware senator’s repeated emphasis on the importance of transatlantic relationships will be seen as a direct challenge to the administration of Trump.
His intervention comes at a time when Britain is negotiating the terms of its departure from the EU and Trump clashes with European leaders over issues such as trade and defence.
Biden made an apparent nod to the tensions of the time, saying “looking inward, turning inward, has never, ever worked for us before”.
The “special relationship” between the US and UK still formed the “core” of transatlantic alliances, he said.