As many of you likely know, today voters in Great Britain are voting on a referendum that will decide whether Great Britain leaves the European Union (EU). Actually, since England is five hours ahead of my time zone, (7 hours EP) the polls are already open. Results are expected to start trickling in at about 6:30 in the evening (4:30 EP) with the final results due first thing tomorrow morning. Projections will likely be released by 10pm, (8pm EP) today, when more than 50% of the wards have been published. So what does the Brexit vote have to do with a possible Donald Trump administration?
Obviously the geopolitical and economic ramifications of a British exit from the EU will impact the incoming administration. However, much of the politics behind the referendum to leave the European Union, is a major platform in Donald Trump’s candidacy. These are national identity and a depressed economy. As you know, Donald Trump has been attracting nationalistic voters who fear the erosion of the US way of life through cultural diversification. Additionally, the move to leave the EU is fueled by low-income British citizens who believe that the economic pressures upon them are the result of out-of-control immigration into Great Britain. Yes, there are many other issues at play because it is a complex problem, however, most of it can be defined within the issue of immigration and economics.
On the nationalistic front, the perceived erosion of English culture due to unchecked immigration is very similar to the current situation in the United States with the growing movement to shut down the US-Mexico border. Last week, I spent much of it discussing the issue of assimilating immigrants. I believe that much of the debate in the US is driven by the fear that Spanish is beginning to dominate many communities. This is opposed to the usage of the phrase “immigrant assimilation” that tends to denote cultural assimilation. In the US, it seems to me, that the drive for closed borders has more to do with the usage of the English language rather than the erosion of the culture.
In Britain, the drive for nationalism is centuries-old and is tied in directly to the idea that the powerful British Commonwealth is now just another country in a European Union. Also, the British never really integrated fully into the EU. The British use the Pound as its currency, rather than the Euro, and passports are still required for England, as opposed to neighboring countries in the mainland that have dropped border inspections within the countries that comprise the EU.
For Britain, the EU has been more of a free-trade participation rather than a full integration. Nonetheless, the economic pressures brought on by world-wide integrated economies and supply-chains have put pressure on the British economy, especially upon the low income. The nationalists who opposed British integration into the EU from the very beginning wrapped their movement around the economic pressures, along with the resulting immigration influx and thus the British are voting today whether to remain a part of the EU, or to leave it.
“Take control of our borders” has been the battle cry for those wishing that Britain leaves the EU. Pretty much the same battle cry Donald Trump has been sounding since his announcement.
From a global standpoint, should Britain vote to leave the EU, the short-term implications will likely result in some economic strife for the Americas, as in the continent, not the country. This is because Britain would have to negotiate multiple trade agreements to continue in the global economy. The economic consequences will be felt more acutely in Europe, then in the Americas. However, some supply chains will be disrupted and tariffs will likely result in higher prices for British products.
Over the long-term, the incoming US president will be faced with a myriad of geo-political problems, along with economic pressures, as the US will have to continue to deal with the problems of a resurgent Russian sphere of influence and terrorism from ISIS/ISIL-type organizations, without an integrated Europe. A deal with the left-over Euro countries will have to be renegotiated with Britain as well. Obviously, shared intelligence will suffer as well.
If the British vote to leave the EU, the immediate, mid-term and long-term consequences will give us a model from which to try and understand what would happen if Trump is successful in forcing a renegotiation of the NAFTA treaty.
The most immediate barometer for a successful vote to leave the EU will allow us a glimpse on whether the move towards nationalism is truly representative of the majority, or just the loud noises from a very vocal minority. Excluding other political dynamics, the results of the referendum will allow us to see if nationalism is sufficient to propel Donald Trump towards the presidency in the upcoming elections in November.