Biden says US wanted UK Remain vote but ‘respects’ Brexit decision
The US would have preferred a Remain vote in the EU referendum, US Vice President Joe Biden has said.
In a wide-ranging speech at Dublin Castle, Mr Biden launched a scathing attack on “reactionary politicians and demagogues peddling xenophobia, nationalism and isolationism”.
And he said the US wanted to keep growing economic ties with the European Union, which he described as “already the largest economic relationship in the world”.
“Of course, yesterday a majority of the British people voted to leave the European Union, and as long-standing friends of the United Kingdom, the United States respects their decision,” he said.
“[It is] not how we would have preferred it to be. But we respect their position.”
Before a crowd in the Irish capital, where Mr Biden is on a six-day official visit, he said relations with the UK and European allies are indispensible to US economic and national security.
“So as the leadership in London and Brussels determines what this new relationship will look like, we will continue to work with our partners to navigate a new road ahead while continuing to promote stability, security and prosperity around the world,” he said.
But he attacked a lurch to extremes by politicians in Europe and the US.
Quoting from Irish poet WB Yeats, he said “all has changed, changed utterly – a terrible beauty has been born” around the globe.
“In the past 15 years, all has changed in the world,” he said.
“We’ve seen more change and challenges and opportunities than any time since World War Two and maybe before.”
Mr Biden said mass migration, war, terrorism, infectious diseases, climate change, economic unease and anxiety had given rise to an inevitable human reaction – frustration and anger.
“All this provides fertile terrain for reactionary politicians and demagogues peddling xenophobia, nationalism and isolationism,” he said.
“We see it in Europe, we see in other parts of the world and we see it in my home country, where some politicians find it convenient to scapegoat immigrants instead of welcoming them, to play to our fears rather than, as Abraham Lincoln said, appeal to our better angels.”
Mr Biden criticised those who were intent to “divide us based on religion or ethnicity, rather than unite us in our common humanity, build walls instead of bridges.”
“It is un-American what we have been seeing,” he added.
“It is not who we have become. It is not who we are.”
Referring to Dublin Castle as a once “symbolic centre of British occupation and oppression of Ireland”, he said it served as a reminder that people everywhere share the same basic desire to “breathe free, to be able to express themselves, to follow their own North Star.”
Mr Biden also touched on his Irish American heritage, close relations between the two countries and Ireland’s leading role in LGBT rights, with its historic marriage referendum last year.
Traditional Irish band The Chieftains, singer-songwriter Mundy and Irish language band Seo Linn played at the event, which saw a major security operation in the Irish capital.
In a separate engagement at Trinity College Dublin, Mr Biden receive an honorary doctorate as well as a gold medal from the university’s philosophical society.
His return to Dublin follows two days in Mayo, in the west of Ireland, where he kept his promise to play a round of golf in Ireland.
Mr Biden’s ancestral connections with Co Mayo have been traced back as far as the late 1700s.
His great-great-great-grandfather Edward Blewitt lived in Ballina and great-great-grandfather Owen Finnegan, the Cooley peninsula in Co Louth, and both left Ireland during the Great Famine of the 1840s.
A trip to Co Louth on Saturday will also take in sites with ancestral links, while Newgrange is also on the agenda.