Britain, outside the EU, will become more important than before. So claims the former US National Security Adviser John Bolton.

16 December 2020 By Paul Martin

The former former US national security adviser John Bolton has urged Britain to push ahead with negotiations for a trade deal even before Joe Biden takes office as President in late January.  He said that withdrawal from the European Union, whether with or without a UK-EU trade deal,will actually help ensure that Britain’s role in world strategic affairs and is ‘much more important than before’.

Via zoom he told a think-tank, the Henry Jackson Society, that Britain was well positioned to ‘step up its role in NATO’.

The recently announced boost to military expenditure was ‘very important’, he said.  It may even, ‘inspire the Biden team’ to act similarly.

By having been part of the EU Britain had less influence than it had deserved, and its exit meant ‘there is a clear moment of opportunity and very available for the taking’.

He expected Britain would take full advantage of its membership of the G-20 meetings of the world’s most powerful leaders.

‘I don’t think Boris should sit back and wait for the phonecall from Biden.  Move politely but aggressively,’ Bolton said.   He dismissed as mere rhetoric the statement four years ago by former president Barak Obama that by exiting the EU Britain would be ‘go to the back of the queue’ in negotiating a trade agreement.

However Bolton said that, to maintain a special relationship with the Biden administration, Britain needed to avoid any perceived damage to the Northern Ireland peace agreement, especially over the Irish border.  Biden felt he had a stake in the successful negotiations mediated by former US Senator George Mitchell.

Biden, he said, had a misplaced approving view of the EU as ‘a wonderful example of ceding national sovereignty to supra-national institutions’. 

 While this did ‘warrant some UK concern about Biden’, Bolton did not expect it would not reduce Britain’s standing in its relationship with the USA.

‘There’s a huge US interest,’ he said, in Britain remaining and expanding its global importance.

Bolton predicted that the Biden administration would maintain the sort of tough stance on China that President Donald Trump had imposed in the past year.  He was worried, though, that Biden would not be tough enough on Russia, partly because Biden wanted to negotiate an extension to the START agreement though this was, he said, far more in Russia’s interest than America’s.

Bolton accused China of making a very rapid expansion in its biological weapons programming.  He suggested that China had been experimenting with viruses from bats as part of a biological warfare programme, and that an accidental leak of the virus appeared to have caused the worldwide pandemic.

He also suggested that the Russians had shown a disproportionate interest in Ebola, another virus that might be adapted for biological warfare.

Another matter of concern for Britain, Europe and the US, he said, was China’s use of  ‘weaponised firms in telecoms’.  But he said China was vulnerable because it relied on massive amounts of imported oil and this could be used as leverage by the West.

‘China is very energy dependent and it’s something we need to look at exploiting,’ Bolton said.

The former US ambassador to the UN served for a year and a half as Trump’s National Security Adviser until their acrimonious split.