Donald Trump, who unlike President Obama and Hillary Clinton had urged the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, was vindicated on Friday when Britons voted to do just that.
“I hope America is watching, it will soon be time to believe in America again.”
Both Clinton and Obama, who gave the nation a patronizing lecture when he traveled to London earlier this year, backed the “stay” campaign. But Trump’s own campaign theme is built around Americanism — a new nationalism that supersedes globalism — and now it looks like that nationalist message is a worldwide winner.
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Asked about the British vote, Trump said: “They took back control of their country. It’s a great thing. People are angry, all over the world, they’re angry. They’re angry over borders, they’re angry over people coming into the country and taking over. Nobody even knows who they are. They’re angry about many, many things.”
While Obama was in San Francisco to collect more campaign money and Hillary Clinton took a second day off in a row, Trump was in Scotland — a suprisingly well-timed trip to one of his golf courses. There, he issued a more formal statement in which he concludes: “I hope America is watching — it will soon be time to believe in America again.”
“The people of the United Kingdom have exercised the sacred right of all free peoples. They have declared their independence from the European Union, and have voted to reassert control over their own politics, borders, and economy. A Trump administration pledges to strengthen our ties with a free and independent Britain, deepening our bonds in commerce, culture and mutual defense. The whole world is more peaceful and stable when our two countries — and our two peoples — are united together, as they will be under a Trump administration,” he said in the statement.
“Come November, the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence. Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration, and foreign policies that put our citizens first. They will have the chance to reject today’s rule by the global elite, and to embrace real change that delivers a government of, by, and for the people.”
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Once again, Establishment voices had derided Trump’s decision to head to the U.K. just as it was voted on whether to remain in the EU. “It’s a strategic mistake,” said Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee aide and GOP strategist. South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who leads the Senate Republican Conference, called on Trump to “get back here and get on the campaign trail.”
But Trump had set himself apart from top politicians by calling for the U.K. to split from the EU, saying he would “be more inclined to leave for a lot of reasons, like having a lot less bureaucracy.” He also expressed concern for the EU’s open-border policies, especially after radical Islamic terrorists attacks, and criticized its seemingly naive acceptance of unknown refugees from the Middle East.
The historic vote can be seen in the context of a Europe-wide resurgence of nationalism and populism, a reaction to increasingly aggressive globalization — of which the EU is a driving force. Anti-EU feeling has been growing in Europe for years, manifested by widespread “anti-austerity” protests, resistance to mass immigration, and the rise of nationalist/populist conservative parties across the continent.
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The vote will no doubt encourage and embolden Euroskeptic political parties in France, Hungary, Sweden, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. Indeed it already has.
“We want be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy,” Dutch politician Geert Wilders said in a statement on Friday. The day before the vote, Marine Le Pen of the Front National in France called for a French referendum, while in Italy, the anti-Establishment Five Star movement called for an Italian vote on the EU.
Likewise it will surely continue to discourage pro-EU forces across Europe. Former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb called the result a “bad nightmare,” while France’s President Hollande and Germany’s Chancellor Merkel held an emergency phone call Friday morning.
The EU has long been seen in Britain to be dominated by France and Germany. The Establishments of both countries were vocal in their opposition to Brexit in the days and weeks leading up to the vote. Merkel claimed in early June that “one nation alone will never be able to achieve such good results.”
What those results are exactly, aside from loss of national sovereignty and mass migration, is hard to say — the EU’s share of global GDP has been declining for some time.
Ironically, the flood of Muslim migrants into Europe — for which many argue Merkel is directly responsible — likely played some role in influencing the majority of British voters to vote in favor of Brexit.
“I compare Brussels to the Berlin Wall. If Great Britain knocks down part of the wall, it’s finished, it’s over.”
The Telegraph is reporting that senior EU officials have also warned of a domino effect of states following Britain out of the bloc. Many predict an exodus of member states would signal the end of the European project, and the Brexit vote would be recorded in history as its death knell.
“Brexit would be marvelous — extraordinary — for all European peoples who long for freedom … Objectively, it will be the beginning of the end of the European Union,” Le Pen said last December.
“I compare Brussels to the Berlin Wall. If Great Britain knocks down part of the wall, it’s finished, it’s over,” she added. Symbolically, in the weeks preceding the Brexit vote, Switzerland officially withdrew its application for membership.
The vote also has implications for Trump. The EU embodies the very same things which Trump rails against daily. It forces upon the British people mass immigration and unfair trade deals — and serves only the small, global financial elite.
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“I see similar themes on both sides of the Atlantic — a strong sense of threatened national identity, anti-globalization, nostalgia, and a sense that elites aren’t accountable,” Wendy Rahn, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota, told Reuters on Tuesday.
The Brexit vote gives Trump the opportunity to present himself in a broader context — it proves that he’s not tapping into some nasty, bigoted vein of American society, as asserted by elites in the media, but rather the desire, widespread across the globe, for national sovereignty, secure borders, and government accountable to the people.