Don't overlook the Brexit, a powerful foreshadowing of the 2016 election

In this Wednesday, June 22, 2016 file photo, advocate to exit Europe Boris Johnson poses for a selfie photo with voters during a whistle stop tour of the country on the final day of campaigning before Thursday's EU referendum vote, in Selby, north England. (Andrew Parsons / PA via AP, File)

With just over 51% of the vote, United Kingdom citizens have decided in a historic referendum to leave the European Union. Following the result, Prime Minister, David Cameron, an opponent of the “leave” movement, announced his impending resignation as the leader of the nation and the Conservative party.

The result of the Brexit should serve as a stern warning to American voters, whose own support of presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, hinges on the kind of nativist isolationism that fueled this result.

The Brexit follows a trend of right-wing mobilization, built on the back of increasing anti-immigration sentiment, economic instability, a clumsy EU, and most evidently, poor leadership from PM Cameron.

Cameron’s campaign-promise to allow the British people to determine the future of the UK as it relates to Europe will serve as the end of his political existence. As of today, the British Pound has fallen to a 7-year low, with 1 GBP now coming in at the equivalent of 1.37 USD. Major indices, such as the FTSE 250, which the Telegraph refers to as a “close barometer of the UK economy,” dropped 7.3% after the results came in.

Boris Johnson, a member of Parliament and the former Mayor of London had become a vocal proponent of “leave” in recent weeks, serving as a mouthpiece for this isolationist movement. After the overnight victory, Johnson denied the Brexit campaign would result in “the United Kingdom [being] in any way less united, nor indeed [would] it mean that it will be any less European... that this decision involves pulling up a drawbridge or some sort of isolationism…”

It has become standard practice in European and American politics to deny empirical realities in favor of an embrace of the idyllic, or perhaps, insane. It is an inherent fact that in leaving the EU the UK will become more isolated and less united with Europe. This is an unavoidable reality of the decision, not an opinion.

Isolationism is a poisonous geopolitical strategy. In the globalized world, a nation such as the UK, which the World Bank ranked as the fifth largest economy by GDP in 2014, cannot successfully sever vital economic and cultural ties, and expect to prosper miraculously. While practical isolationism is not realistic for the UK, the isolationist mindset serves as a catalyst for nativism and demagogic leadership.

Now, Britain must face an inevitable return to the question of Scotland, a state which looks more likely to seek independence, with a majority “remain” vote hinting at success in the second run. While it is not yet clear how the UK will fare with a national exit from the EU, throwing in a potential Scottish independence victory would only complicate concerns.

The nation must also figure out their economic position following departure from the EU. The Guardian quoted “Vote Leave” executive, Matthew Elliot as promoting “leave” on the notion of improved trade and a desire to “to take back control of our trade and do deals with growing economies rather than being shackled to the failing economies of Europe.”

There is a clear and significant level of economic and political stagnation in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Isolationist-populism hinges upon this divide, exploiting the intersection of ignorance, bliss and economic dissatisfaction. The language used to promote the Brexit not only rings with the same isolationist and ignorant logic of Donald Trump, but targets the same manufacturing and exporting yardstick as the measure of a nation’s strength and the path toward renewed glory.

The callback to the era in which Britain and America served as powerful exporters is romantic and intoxicating, especially for those most affected by the evaporation and overseas transfer of these industries. The nostalgia adds a layer of fog and misunderstanding to current economic realities and the fundamentally altered world globalization has created.

The result of the Brexit should serve as a stern warning to American voters, whose own support of presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, hinges on the kind of nativist isolationism that fueled this result. Throwing support behind a chameleonic figure in hopes of altering politics as we know is far from logical.

Disillusion with the politics, economics and culture of today should not encourage a substantial population of voters to simply write-off the status quo in its entirety. It is almost certain that UK voters will come to regret this decision once the long-term ramifications come into clarity.

In recent days, the “remain” campaign had seemed poised to win, comforted by the belief that voters would be capable of grasping the ramifications of dissolving their bond with Europe. That confidence now seems myopic. For American voters, the instability radiating from Europe will foreshadow either a pragmatic realization, or help to perpetuate a dark chapter in modern American history.


Christopher Sacco is opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.sacco@uconn.edu.