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Biden opens European tour with slap at Brits

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Remember Clark Griswold, that happy-go-lucky Everyman who takes the trip of a lifetime, offends his hosts, and confirms every prejudice about Americans? Welcome to “Joe Biden’s European Vacation.”

The president is reviving the National Lampoon series on his trip to England for the G-7 summit. Too bad it’s his own nation he’s lampooning.

Like the Griswolds’ summer vacations, these trips are planned to the last detail, only for everything to go wrong. On Wednesday night, as President and Dr. Griswold bedded down on Air Force One, the British papers broke the story that Yael Lempert, the new American ambassador to the UK, had issued Boris Johnson’s government with a demarche.

A demarche isn’t one of the fancy foods the Griswolds eat in France. It’s diplo-speak for putting your enemies on notice. Or, as in this case, insulting your closest ally and making a delicate situation worse.

Last week, Lempert warned that Johnson and Brexit were “inflaming” tensions in Northern Ireland. She conditioned a US-UK trade deal on Britain surrendering to the European Union’s terms as Britain and the EU haggle out the details of their economic relationship.

Right now, the UK and the EU are arguing about sausages. These are made of horsemeat in Europe and sawdust in Britain. But Biden’s real beef runs deeper.

Biden is a proud Irish American. He doesn’t think Northern Ireland should be part of the UK. And neither, like most Englishmen, do I. The difference is, I think the future of Northern Ireland is for the people of Northern Ireland to decide.

The president also is a proud Democrat. The Good Friday Agreement, which put a lid on the Troubles in Northern Ireland, is a Democratic legacy, and a good one. It’s unimaginable that terrorism and military occupation would return to Northern Ireland — unless a Democratic president inflames the situation by accusing the British government of breaking the Good Friday accords.

Like the adventures of the Griswold family, which get less funny as they go on, we have seen this movie before. Before the Brexit referendum in 2016, President Barack Obama warned the cheeky Brits about declaring their independence from the corrupt and undemocratic EU: if they voted for Brexit, they’d find themselves “at the back of the queue” for striking trade deals with the US.

The British like nothing more than waiting in line. They like nothing less than being told what to do by foreigners. They raised two Churchillian fingers to Obama and the EU.

Johnson won that Brexit vote, and he eventually won the prime minister’s office, too. The surface resemblances to President Donald Trump — the eccentric hair, the sense of humor, the patriotism, the elaborate private life — enraged the left on both sides of the Atlantic. As The Donald said, “They call him Britain Trump.”

That wasn’t all the Democrats called Boris as he two-stepped with Trump. But Boris is a moderate, a free marketeer and an Atlanticist. He’s exactly the kind of PM that the Democrats, were they to be sensible for a moment, would prefer.

The press would have asked Biden about why he’s resumed Obama’s strategy of insulting your friends, but Biden didn’t hold a joint press conference with Boris on Thursday. Now, it’s true that my colleagues in the British press make a blood-crazed Rottweiler look like Snoopy. But it’s also true that taking one in the face from Fleet Street comes with the ­territory.

This is the first time in modern history that the president of the United States has dodged the press after his inaugural meeting with Britain’s prime minister. It’s obvious that Biden isn’t up to the biggest job in the world.

Jibberin’ Joe repartee isn’t exactly razor-sharp on a good day. Multiply the blatant decline of the presidential faculties by a five-hour jet lag, and Biden would come off looking like one of those lost tourists in “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.” Banterin’ Boris, meanwhile, is a natural comedian who can recite Homer in the original Greek.

The jokes in this European Vacation are on the United States. And also on the queen. The Bidens are going to tea with Elizabeth II on Sunday. It will be a memorable occasion — for her anyway, as her memory is still working.

Dominic Green is deputy editor of The Spectator’s world edition.

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